LONDON (AP) ? EMI Group PLC said a deal to allow Apple Inc. to sell the record company's songs online would not include The Beatles' catalog ? dashing hopes the group's music would be available to download for the first time.
The record company's deal will allow customers of Apple Inc.'s iTunes store to play downloaded songs by the Rolling Stones, Norah Jones, Coldplay and other top-selling artists free of the copying restrictions once imposed by their label.
Eric Nicoli, EMI chief executive, told reporters The Beatles music catalog would not be included, but said the firm was "working on it."
EMI has acted as the distributor for the Beatles since the early 1960s, but The Beatles' music holding company, Apple Corps Ltd., has so far declined to allow the Fab Four's music on any Internet music services, including iTunes.
The situation was exacerbated by a long-running trademark dispute between Apple Inc. and Apple Corps. That legal feud was resolved in February when the two companies agreed on joint use of the apple logo and name, a deal many saw as paving the way for an agreement for online access to the Fab Four's songs.
Apple Corps was founded by the Fab Four in 1968 and is still owned by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, the widow of John Lennon and the estate of George Harrison.
Under the new deal, singles and albums free from copy-protection software and with a higher sound quality will be offered as a premium product through the new service, EMI announced at a London news conference.
Consumers would pay a higher price for the premium singles, but the same price for albums either with or without the copy protection software.
The announcement followed calls by Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs earlier this year for the world's four major record companies, including EMI, to start selling songs online without copy-protection software.
The software, known as DRM, is designed to combat piracy by preventing unauthorized copying, but can make downloading music difficult for consumers.
The software used by Apple does not work with competing services or devices, meaning that consumers can only download songs from iTunes to iPod music players.
The linkages between the download services and players has drawn criticism from European industry regulators, who argue that it limits buyer choice.
Jobs argued there was little benefit to record companies selling more than 90 percent of their music without DRM on compact discs, then selling the remaining percentage online with DRM.
Some analysts suggest that lifting the software restrictions could boost sales of online music, which currently account for around 10 percent of global music sales.