Two words: Copyright expiration. And then there’s the money.
FORTUNE — “There’s still some life in the old download dog yet,” wrote Macworld’s Joel Mathis last week, reaching for a theme to connect the surprise unleashing of Beyonce’s self-titled album last Friday with the scheduled release next Tuesday of The Beatles: bootleg recordings 1963, both exclusively on iTunes.
To Mathis, it’s all about what he sees as the losing battle Apple (AAPL), still wedded to Steve Jobs’ theory that people want to own their music, is waging with Pandora, Spotify, Google Play and the rest of streaming music services.
The truth is both simpler and more cynical. Copyright protection on the 59 hitherto unreleased songs — two hours of outtakes, BBC recordings and demos (track list below) — expires at the end of the December, 50 years after they were recorded.
They HAVE to release this before the end of December or lose all right. And by doing so, they get the rights for another 70 years!
And after they have put these up for sale, and secured their future rights, they can just take them off the market again.
Just another example of how the IP laws are messed up.
So buy it quick.