Pop & Hiss

The L.A. Times music blog

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Meet the Beatles' USB drive; EMI files suit against BlueBeat for selling Beatles downloads

November 4, 2009 |  2:06 pm


While the Beatles may not yet be on iTunes, they're still embracing new models of distribution. After making their music available in a video game in September, the Beatles will soon be releasing a limited edition custom-made apple-shaped USB drive containing all audio and video found in the recent re-mastered stereo box set.

But it will cost you: The USB drive will be selling for $279.

The content on the USB drive can also be had for $219, but the higher price allows fans to avoid the clutter of 14 compact discs. Only 30,000 of the expensive stocking stuffers will be available. Pre-orders are up and running now on the Beatles' official website, and the USB will be released on Dec. 8 in the United States.

Here's the info for the audio geeks, straight from the official Beatles website: "The 16GB USB’s audio contents will be provided in FLAC 44.1 Khz 24 bit and MP3 320 Kbps formats, fully compatible with PC and Mac."

Meanwhile, fans can still purchase Beatles MP3s for 25 cents on the largely heretofore unknown website BlueBeat.com. However, EMI has filed copyright infringement papers against BlueBeat and its parent company, Media Rights Technologies, in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California for selling Beatles content, as well as a number of its other distributed acts.

An EMI spokeswoman said the label "has not authorized content to be made available on BlueBeat." When reached via phone, BlueBeat founder Hank Risan declined to comment to Pop & Hiss.

He does, however, have experience in the world of copyright infringement.

In 2002, his online Museum of Virtual Musical Instruments was targeted by the Recording Industry Assn. of America for playing music on demand without a label's permission. Risan spoke to The Times in 2003 about focusing on legal file-sharing efforts and beefing up existing protections on the labels' downloadable songs.

"I was shocked at how easy it was to strip [electronic locks] off of copyrighted material," Risan told The Times in 2003. He spoke of being informed by peers that piracy couldn't be stopped with software alone, and said to The Times, "That, to me, [says] Aha! I have a new challenge in life."

--Todd Martens

Screen shot: The official Beatles Web store.


Beatles downloads for 25 cents? For now.