Last year in December, the Beatles very quietly released nearly 60 previously unreleased recording via iTunes as the "Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963," as part of a copyright protection scheme.
In Europe, recordings become popular domain 50 years after their creation unless officially released by copyright owners. By "publishing" the 1963 recordings, the Beatles were establishing their continued ownership of the copyrights. Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys and Motown also issued "copyright dump" recordings in 1963. They also followed suit last month, with Dylan issuing songs on a vinyl collection limited to 1,000 copies in Europe, and Motown and the Beach Boys releasing recordings online.
The Beach Boys actually released two such items: A collection of various live and studio outtakes called Keep an Eye on Summer, complete with downloadable liner notes, and a live concert recording from Sacramento.
But the Beatles? Nada. Fan keeping a steady eye on iTunes through New Year's Eve for a surprise release were disappointed.
I've seen no official comment from Apple regarding its reasoning for not putting out a collection this year. It may be that the Beatles' lawyers have a different legal strategy for protecting these recordings. But, unless there is a change, the European copyright law seems fairly clear: If copyrights aren't protected by artists, anyone can release them.
This happened last year when the Rock Melon label issued a compilation called Works in Progress, featuring songs the Beatles neglected to include in their "official" release of 1963 works.
In the absence of a 1964 collection issued by the Beatles themselves, we're sure to see many such labels compile their own albums of studio outtakes and live concerts from 1964. There are dozens of performances to choose from that have already surfaced on bootlegs throughout the years.
The only question is, will the Beatles fight to stop any of theses releases and, if so, on what grounds?