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
Apple's CEO tops two polls in one week. Will no one rid us of these meddlesome lists?
Last Thursday, Oct. 8, an Agenda Setters panel named Steve Jobs the most influential individual in the global technology industry, ahead of Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, and Barack Obama, President of the United States.
Four days later, a survey of 1,000 tweens and teens ages 12 to 17 picked Steve MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Oct 14, 2009 7:11 AM ET
Apple's (AAPL) "secrecy machine" kicked back into high gear in the days leading up to Wednesday's "It's only rock and roll" event, according to Daring Fireball's John Gruber.
But that hasn't stopped Gruber and the rest of the Apple-watching trade press from publishing surprisingly definitive (and deliciously contradictory) statements about what announcements Apple will and won't be making in just a few hours.
Gruber, for example, confesses that he's heard very little MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Sep 9, 2009 6:47 AM ET
Catching up on late week Apple (AAPL) news...
Beatles on iTunes in 2008. We've heard stories like it before, but this one has a twist. The London Evening Standard reported Saturday that Paul McCartney, who is said to be worth more than $1.65 billion, will begin releasing the Beatles catalog on iTunes in the coming months to help defray the $40 to $60 million it may cost him to get MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Mar 8, 2008 10:23 AM ET
|Inside the underground sex economy|
|Obama wants to expand overtime pay|
|NJ agrees to ban Tesla direct sales|
|Plug the financial leaks, now!|
|Bitcoin: taxes are the real reason it's doomed|