What's Paul McCartney's doomsday scenario? Someone, somewhere, somehow manages to leak the Beatles' music onto the internet, where it will be stolen by everyone, all the time. This must be prevented! Notice a problem there? Yeah, it gets worse.
A few days ago, we found out that Apple Corps and EMI would finally release the Beatles' catalog in a digital format. It's not that we couldn't have just purchased CDs and ripped them—that's what everyone's been doing for years now—it's just that it felt like progress. In reality, it was just the near-random actions of someone who has no idea what's going on, at all. From the Guardian via Ars, Paul McCartney's view on selling the Beatles' music online:
I met [EMI's chief executive] on a plane once. I said: "What is the problem? I want to do it, we all want to do it." And he explained that in the deal that we want, they feel exposed. If [digitised Beatles music] gets out, if one employee decides to take it home and wap it on to the internet, we would have the right to say, "Now you recompense us for that. And they're scared of that."
Just to be clear, Paul McCartney says he wants to sell music online, but he—and his record company—are worried that someone could conceivably download it, upload it back to the internet, and open the floodgates to piracy. As opposed to just uploading the higher-quality digital files you're selling to people on Apple-shaped USB drives right now, or on CDs, more than a decade ago. McCartney expects an agreement by which he would be compensated if people share his music, as if it would be somehow correlated with the release of Beatles' tracks online, which EMI—no stranger to releasing music online—is scared of because it's insane.
Poor Paul! Someone should tell him, you know, about all the wapping. [Ars Technica]
UPDATE: From anonymized (not anonymous) source who researched similar subjects in the past, a possible explanation:
It's not the music for sale they're worried about but the raw remasters (this is why McCartney specifically refers to an employee potentially uploading the music). I don't know how much you've read about the making of [Beatles Rock Band] but they went to incredible lengths to protect the masters. It was only towards the end of the project that Harmonix received the (heavily encrypted) music they needed; before then, Apple Corps had been sending them "dirtied-up" copies of the music just in case it was intercepted halfway.
The real threat from McCartney and the other Beatles (and er, spouses of Beatles) is that if, somewhere in the process of turning their music into iTunes-friendly files, the MASTERS get leaked... then they will sue the pants off of EMI. And EMI allegedly said they are in such a precarious financial position that they do not want to take the risk of getting hit by a lawsuit that could take the company down.
An alternate theory, which still doesn't quite work. If masters leaked to the internet, presumably they'd be encoded in something like FLAC at best, which would be indistinguishable from the files the Beatles are OK with selling on USB drives right now. Or if this refers to the recording's component parts, like the ones used to create Rock Band, still: This seems avoidable. And in either strain of paranoia: Paul McCartney doesn't understand the internet. (And possibly other things, too!)