The Beatles Sue Apple Computer Over iPod, iTunes

Beatles Sue Apple | Brad Pitt | Vaneese Thomas | R.I.P. Cash, Ritter

The Beatles Sue Apple Computer Over iPod, iTunes

The inevitable has happened: The Beatles have sued Steve Jobs over Apple iTunes and the Apple iPod — or at least the band's company, Apple Corps., has sued Apple Computer.

The case was apparently filed a short time ago in London's High Court of Justice, but was just served on Apple Computer in California in the last couple of days. Although details from the court papers aren't yet available, the gist of the breach of contract suit is as follows.

When Apple Computer first came into existence in the mid-'70s, the Beatles' lawyers sued — and won — over the use of the corporate name. The Fab Four, it was widely known, already had their own company called Apple Corps. (Ironically, Jobs admitted to naming his company as a tribute to the Beatles.)

The result of the suit was a huge cash settlement and a promise that the Apple logo and name would only be used for computers — never for a music company.

Several years later, when computers starting playing music through attachable speakers, the Beatles again sued and won, this time over breach of a trademark agreement, since Apple Computer had agreed to steer clear of the music business. Their winnings against Apple Computer have come to an estimated $50 million so far.

When Jobs announced the iPod portable music player and companion music software iTunes, this column was the first to mention that the computer company could be in serious violation of its agreement with the Beatles. Now it appears that the Beatles' lawyers, Eversheds of London, are in agreement.

"When it first happened with the iPod, we said, 'What could they be thinking?'" said a Beatles legal insider, who agreed that posters announcing the iPod from "AppleMusic" were among the most egregious violations. "They knew we had the agreement, and that we'd won a lot of money from them already."

A call by this column to Apple Computer's legal counsel, Nancy Heinen, was refused Thursday afternoon. But my Beatles source said, "It's OK with us if they want to go this route. It's just more money for us."

Brad Pitt Blockbuster May Need Horseload of Cash

"Troy," the gazillion-dollar epic which stars Brad Pitt as Achilles, the original heel, needs a Trojan horse full of investors.

The Wolfgang Petersen-directed blockbuster is a Warner Bros. production, but is partially financed by Village Roadshow Pictures, an Australian company with a $100 million-plus commitment to the project.

Unfortunately, Village Roadshow is now having some financial problems that may force it to back out of the project. If Village Roadshow's crisis, which is severe, continues, it may imperil more future Warner projects.

The Australians, you may recall, financed "The Matrix" series for Warner. But this week Village Roadshow reported a $26 million loss through June 30th. That compared with a $50 million profit the previous year.

Robert Kirby, president of Village Roadshow, told yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald: "We still have not made a final decision on 'Troy.' It is a phenomenal project and we are dying to be in it but ... it is looking less likely," he said.

Strangely, this past Sunday's New York Times reported that Village Roadshow figured into Warner's plans to finance a third of its films in the coming year. Village Roadshow had also committed over $100 million each to "Catwoman" and "Ocean's 12," both Warner films.

But the Times didn't realize that Village Roadshow has had as many big ups as it has had downs. They've managed to counter "The Matrix" profits and successes with "Scooby-Doo" "Ocean's 11," and "Miss Congeniality" with spectacular losses from Eddie Murphy movies such as "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" and "Showtime," as well as "Analyze That," "Don't Say A Word," and "The Majestic." In a world of balancing profits and losses, the latter have managed to edge out the former.

"Troy"— which has been filming since late April in Mexico, Malta and other expensive locations — has its own interesting history. In order to make the film with Pitt, Warner's had to pull him off another movie, Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain." Production was halted on the Australian set of that movie and its future now looks doubtful. Petersen was given "Troy" by Warner when the studio couldn't come up with a script, or stars, for "Superman vs. Batman."

Yesterday Warner's announced, however, it would try and make a new Batman movie with Christian Bale playing Bruce Wayne and the Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan, who directed the excellent "Insomnia" at Warner's, is in charge of that one. For now.

Vaneese Thomas's Glorious Sound

It's the great inequity of life that singers who can't sing and need Vaneese Thomas's voice as a backup are at the top of the charts. All the while, Thomas's new CD, "A Woman's Love," on Segue Records, barely rates a blip.

Thomas, the daughter of late, legendary R&B star Rufus Thomas, isn't letting that stop her. She put on a remarkable show Wednesday night at B.B. King's to launch the CD. Her band was hot and so was she.

In the invited audience: David Letterman's sidekick/bandleader Paul Shaffer, who's a friend and a fan; David Bowie's famed lead guitarist Carlos Alomar; and Luther Vandross's No. 1 backup singer, Fonzie Thornton.

Just as I walked in, Vaneese and her older sister, Carla, a Memphis legend and pop star herself, ripped into an old Stax hit, "A Woman in Love." This tasty bit of funk was so searing it raised the hairs on the backs of everyone's necks. The power dimmed for a minute in the room and the faux paneling almost warped. Yikes! If Ben Affleck is after soul, folks, he's marrying the wrong lady.

"A Woman in Love" with Vaneese and Carla is on the album, which I suggest you buy right now.

R.I.P.: John Ritter, Johnny Cash

Two celebrity deaths overnight, one sudden, the other — sadly — expected.

After learning that MTV used him for publicity purposes, Johnny Cash did the graceful thing, as usual, and checked out this morning at age 71. Maybe the most influential person ever in country music, Cash was a genius and a gentleman. He will never be forgotten; his stature will only continue to grow.

I met John Ritter last year when he appeared in the movie "Tadpole."

After a whole career of fun, commercial stuff on TV and bad movies, Ritter, son of the late great Tex Ritter, had finally made a little piece of "literary" art. He was unexpectedly terrific to interview, hard-working, funny and wise. What a shame that he died yesterday at such a relatively young age.