Major UK record label EMI yesterday revealed a takeover bid, variously reported as emanting from private equity investment firms.

Firms named as part of the deal proposals include Permira (according to The Guardian) and US investment group Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and investment bank Goldman Sachs (according to the FT).

What's interesting about the proposals, at least for Apple-watchers, is the timing of the news, which emerges as reports claim EMI is readying itself to release tracks from The Beatles through online music services.

The logic for selling tracks by the band now, rather than later, is clear: should the UK government move to support the Gower Commission enquiry decision that copyright on recorded music should not be extended from its current 50-years, then some of the earlier recordings by the band will be out of copyright beginning in 2012.

With no copyright on the recordings, then record label hold on the rights to those recordings will be significantly weakened, and while publishing copyright (which lasts for a duration after the death of an artist) will hold, the recordings will enter the public domain - potentially meaning that people will be able to share them as and when they wish.

With an approach from other labels unlikely at present, partially because EU competition commissioners are looking unkindly at the global merger between Sony and BMG, then interest in any EMI takeover is likely to be based on the strength of the company's back catalogue.

Some reports claim the plan is to sell EMI's music publishing wing as a separate entity, and to get its record label side more attuned to digital music sales, and prune the operation for later sale to another party, potentially Warner Music, which has made an attempt to merge with EMI in the past.

What I'm interested in is who is behind the takeover plans. Are the variously-named investors acting alone, or could there be more parties to the deal than are clearly visible now?

The deal proposal is valued at around £2.5 billion.

Of course, merely because a takeover bid has been made doesn't mean EMI management will be forced to accept it.