Ever since Brian Epstein died in 1967, the Beatles’ business affairs have been run by people who didn’t know what they were doing. And that hasn’t changed even now; it strikes me as ridiculous that in late 2008, Apple Corps still hasn’t agreed to license the Beatles’ music for digital distribution.

Even if the Beatles are the greatest rock band of all time, they’re still just a rock band. But evidently the suits at Apple Corps believe that the Beatles’ music is sacred, different somehow from all other recorded music, and deserves special consideration.

Now, older fans like me already own the Beatles’ music. And younger fans don’t buy CDs. So Apple Corps’s foot-dragging can have only two possible outcomes: either a) young fans obey the law and therefore ignore the Beatles, or b) young fans pirate the Beatles’ music. In neither case does Apple Corps make any money.

Brian Epstein’s genius was in part his intuitive understanding of what young music fans wanted, and in part a knack for shrewd marketing and deal-making. One has to wonder: if he were alive today, and still running the Beatles’ business affairs, would he put up with this ridiculous standoff?

One might wonder why I care, since I already own all of the Beatles’ recorded output. Well, according to reports, the entire Beatles catalog has been digitally remastered using modern technology, but the remastered versions are being held back until a digital deal has been made. I understand the reasoning: a splashy rerelease on an obsolete medium would be rather silly. On the other hand, at the rate we’re going, the remastered catalog won’t be released until all of the Beatles and many of their fans are dead.