McCartney says music will be online soon

NEW YORK — A long-awaited deal to make the Beatles music catalog available online is “virtually settled,” Paul McCartney told Billboard magazine.

Billboard posted a preview of an interview with the pop icon on its Web site Friday, with the full story to appear in print and online Saturday.

The magazine said McCartney has a new album that will be available for download June 5 via Starbucks’ Hear Music label. The story said the digital distribution deal with the coffee chain’s label “is believed to pertain solely to the new album and not back catalog.”

The deal, however, signals “increased willingness on the part of the former Beatles to make music available for consumption online,” Billboard noted. Right now, a limited number of songs McCartney recorded with other artists, and a few solo records from Ringo Starr and John Lennon, are all fans can legally get through downloads.

The launch of Beatles music on the Internet has been tied up by in various lawsuits, including a long-running tussle between Apple Inc., the owner of online music service iTunes and maker of iPods, and Apple Corps. Ltd., the Beatles record label, over trademark issues regarding the company names that was settled in February.

In March, Apple Corps. settled a separate dispute with record label EMI Group PLC over royalties. EMI releases Beatles recordings under the Apple Corps. label, and in mid-April, Chief Executive Eric Nicoli said the company was seeking to make the Fab Four’s music available online “soon.”

Earlier in April, EMI and Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple Inc. reached a deal for making downloads available on iTunes without technology to prevent unauthorized copying and sharing, which raised further speculation on the possibility of Beatles downloads.

Rumors have floated on the Internet about a Beatles-themed “Yellow Submarine iPod” that would follow in the footsteps of other catalog-rich music players Apple Inc. has released in recent years. Neither company has confirmed that speculation.

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