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The Beatles Go Digital… To the Surprise of EMI, Apple, The Beatles, and Everyone Else…

Santa Cruz, Calif.-based apparently began marketing the Fab Four tracks—hitherto unavailable from online music merchants—at lowball prices late last week.

EMI, which distribs Beatles recordings via an agreement with the group’s music company, Apple Corps, filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the company Tuesday in federal court in Los Angeles. Company also issued a curt statement: “EMI has not authorized content to be sold on BlueBeat.”

In a twist ripe with irony, representatives of Media Rights Technologies [owners of Bluebeat] recently wrote to the Librarian of Congress asking that the webcasting licenses of such firms as iTunes, Pandora and MSN Music be revoked on piracy grounds.

“MRT will not condone copyright infringement nor risk infringement liability for our customers and partners. Until Apple is fully compliant with government regulations, iTunes will not be permitted on our sites,” Risan said at the time.

After buying the remastered version of Abbey Road from the site last Friday, we asked EMI and the Beatles’ label Apple Corp. whether BlueBeat, located in Santa Cruz, California, had cleared the necessary rights in order to sell the digital songs, which are not available for sale on Amazon MP3, iTunes, or elsewhere. Bluebeat is selling the songs for 25 cents per track plus a 30 cent processing fee, representing a big discount from what the songs would cost on those other services — were they available.

An EMI source told that the label has sued BlueBeat for copyright infringement (owned, ironically, by a company called Media Rights Technologies) in a U.S. district court in California.

The Beatles catalog is still for sale as of this posting.

Or you can buy the USB drive.