FORTUNE -- "There's still some life in the old download dog yet," wrote Macworld's Joel Mathis last week, reaching for a theme to connect the surprise unleashing of Beyonce's self-titled album last Friday with the scheduled release next Tuesday of The Beatles: bootleg recordings 1963, both exclusively on iTunes.
UPDATE: That link is live now.
To Mathis, it's all about what he sees as the losing battle Apple (AAPL), still wedded to Steve Jobs' theory that people want to own their music, is waging with Pandora, Spotify, Google Play and the rest of streaming music services.
The truth is both simpler and more cynical. Copyright protection on the 59 hitherto unreleased songs -- two hours of outtakes, BBC recordings and demos (track list below) -- expires at the end of the December, 50 years after they were recorded.
But thanks to a November revision of European Union intellectual property laws, copyright protection of released songs is extended to 70 years. If Apple Corps, which owns the copyrights, didn't make these recordings available for sale, every Beatles collector with bootleg MP3 files could legally put out their own album.
Norwegian Beatles blogger Roger Stormo, who broke the news and published the track list last Tuesday, had the copyright angle by Wednesday. The Guardian and the BBC followed up the next day, predicting a wave of annual bootleg releases just ahead of expiration. As the BBC reported:
Bob Dylan's record label rushed out 100 copies of an album last year containing early TV performances, alongside multiple versions of Blowin' in the Wind, Bob Dylan's Dream and I Shall Be Free.
Officially called The 50th Anniversary Collection, it carried a subtitle which explained its true purpose: The Copyright Extension Collection, Vol. 1.
The BBC goes on to speculate, based on the low-key nature of the Beatles release, that after a decent interval Paul McCartney et al. will take the new material off iTunes, "allowing them to exploit the recordings in a more considered way later on."
Below: Stormo's track list.
John Lennon's widow tells Reuters: "Don't hold your breath"
Apple (AAPL) settled its trademark dispute with Apple Corps, The Beatles' holding company in February 2007, clearing the way for one of the world's most commercially successful pop bands to put its catalog on iTunes, the world's largest music store.
Three years later, the three parties involved -- Apple, Apple Corps. and EMI, which holds the licensing rights -- have still not MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Aug 6, 2010 7:06 AM ET
Leave aside for the moment the rumors that Apple Inc. (AAPL) has invited a number of music industry professionals and press to an iPod/iTunes special event on Sept. 9.
We know for a fact that Apple Corps and EMI have scheduled the worldwide release of the original Beatles catalog -- digitally remastered for the first time -- in compact disc format on 09/09/09, an event timed to coincide with MTV Games' MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Aug 19, 2009 8:02 AM ET
Last we checked, the full catalog of Beatles songs was supposed to be available for sale on the iTunes Store before the end of 2008.
Well, it's not happening this year, according to one of the band's two surviving members, and for all we know it may never happen.
"The last word I got back was it's stalled at the whole moment, the whole process," Paul McCartney told reporters gathered Monday for MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Nov 25, 2008 12:35 PM ET
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