Did Yoko Ono And Sky News Just Ruin Apple's Beatles Surprise?

It’s the announcement Steve Jobs has been waiting to make for years: that one of his favorite bands, and perhaps the greatest of all time, will finally be available on the music store that he created. Now he may have just had his thunder stolen. Two hours ago, Sky News reported that the Fab Four are finally coming to iTunes, attributing the news to John Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono, who is in charge of managing the music legend’s estate. The story kicked off with the headline:

“The whole of the Beatles back catalogue will be made available to buy on iTunes, Yoko Ono has told Sky News.”

But almost immediately after publishing the story Sky News killed it, leaving nothing but a blank page in its wake. Google News had a cache of it for a brief time, but that too has apparently disappeared in record time. 9to5mac spotted the article and reached Sky News for more information, only to be told that the news organization was unable to comment.

At this point there are two possibilities: Sky either made a major blunder and posted something that was untrue, or Apple has unleashed its hounds on the news network. My guess is the latter. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that The Beatles on iTunes will be announced tomorrow (the Sky report, or what’s left of it, doesn’t make a release date clear). In fact, a report in the Financial Times today quotes EMI global catalog president Ernesto Schmitt as explicitly ruling out a 9/9/09 release, stating, “Conversations between Apple and EMI are ongoing and we look forward to the day when we can make the music available digitally. But it’s not tomorrow.”

Another interesting point from the FT article: Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison want to sell the Beatles catalog on iTunes, but EMI has objected because of concerns over piracy, of all things (according to McCartney, EMI is worried about being held liable if any tracks leak to the web). Of course, the only way to obtain digital versions of The Beatles catalog online at this point is through piracy.