Hank Risen, the owner of BlueBeat.com, which was found last week to be selling MP3s of the Beatles' catalogue for as little as 15p per track, has defiantly stated that he owns the copyrights in the songs that he's selling.
EMI filed a lawsuit against the company, and Hank Risen - the owner - has issued a bizarre defense filing that claims that he - not Apple Corps or EMI - owns the sound recordings. He says that because he's re-recorded them using "psycho-acoustic simulation" which "express the way [he] believe[s] a particular melody should be heard as a live performance", he owns the recording.
Risan told EMI in an email that he's got a successfully registered copyright on those recordings with the US Copyright Office, but a judge will now have to decide whether those recordings are sufficiently different to the originals to justify a new copyright. Legal precedent, particularly with regard to sampling, suggests he might be facing an uphill battle.
For now, though, BlueBeat.com still continues to offer free streams of the Beatles' catalogue, and 25-cent 160kbps MP3s. It'll be interesting to see how the judge in the case interprets the law. We'll keep you posted.