The legal action between Apple Corps (the Beatles label) and Apple has put the band in position to let Apple distribute its music – on the band's terms.

The Beatles haven't agreed to let any music distributor carry their music catalogue. Like a number of bands, including Radiohead, AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, they are not happy for their albums to be broken up as single song sales.

O'Neil and McConnell lawyer David O'Neil told USA Today: "Apple Corps is in a perfect position to get the best price for its music, because it has the upper hand over Apple Computer for violating their agreement."

History repeating, and repeating

The long running saga between the two Apples dates back to 1976 when Apple Computer was approached by Apple Corps (formed by the Beatles in 1968) over trademark violations. In an out of court settlement Apple agreed that it would not move into the music business. Then in 1989 Apple started selling music software and Apple Corps sued, Apple Computer then agreed not to use the trademark in music-related activities.

Not surprisingly Apple Corps filed suit again when Apple launched the iTunes Music Store last year. This time the stakes are different and as part of the agreement the industry is speculating that the two companies may come to agreement that will see them working together to distribute Beatles music.

Good deal from bad deal?

GartnerG2 analyst Mike McGuire believes that no matter how unfriendly the terms of a potential agreement with Apple, "securing rights to the Beatles catalogue for iTunes would be a big advantage for Apple".

Digital Music News editor Paul Resnikoff said: "If Apple gets the Beatles catalogue the effect on digital music will be huge. Nothing is bigger than the Beatles catalogue."

Forrester Research analyst Josh Bernoff said: "To have the Beatles songs – and solo material from Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr – available at a click of a mouse would be the final barrier to legitimizing digital music. Digital music isn't complete without the Beatles. That's the only group you could say that about."

But not everyone agrees. Envisioneering Group analyst Richard Doherty said: "Most people already have the Beatles catalog on CDs and have ripped them into digital files. You'd see no surge in traffic."

Despite this, Resnikoff explains: "In terms of direct, economic impact, no one will make a killing off the catalogue initially. But it will attract more users and build the industry over the long term."