Is Apple’s iTunes music store becoming the most powerful retailer in the history of the world? Alan Kohler believes it is. Ripping music from the internet can not only produce occasionally poor results but also gives rise to pangs of conscience. And according to Apple, the only way to legally acquire music for an iPod is through iTunes.

However, the highly specialised nature of the product gives iTunes the chance to dominate, and the chance to become extinct, in equal measures. Dominant technologies of the past included Polaroid, Beta, Walkman and fax machines.

To baby boomers, Apple is a recording label established by The Beatles in the late 60s. Apple, the computer company, was established in the mid-70s.

The Beatles’ Apple sued computer Apple over the use of the name and settled the case in the eighties, with an agreement that computer Apple would stay out of the music business. That clause hardly raised a ripple at the
time. Beatles Apple sued again in the late eighties when music became playable using MIDI files on Apple Macs. Another settlement. Now we are to see a third legal action as Beatles’ Apple argues iTunes is a breach of the two previous settlements.

The first settlement was for $AU100,000. The second was $34 million. A third judgment could even make Paul and Ringo wealthy.

Peter Fray

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