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Published:August 15th, 2007 11:32 EST
Music industry looks to help budding artists, educate about online piracy

Music industry looks to help budding artists, educate about online piracy

By SOP newswire

Washington – Teenagers often are viewed as the worst violators of copyright laws, illegally downloading and sharing music on the Internet, but as artists they also have much to gain from copyright protection in the United States.

The Internet, the frequent tool of intellectual property piracy, also has made it easier to protect intellectual property and earn legitimate income for teenage artists who copyright and license their music online.

Rock musician Dana Wilentz was 2 years old when her mother asked her where she learned the song she was singing on a train. “When I told her I wrote it, she didn’t think I was a musical prodigy,” Wilentz told USINFO. “She thought I was a liar.”

Today, Wilentz, 16, composes music, writes songs and plays guitar, drums, piano, ukulele and the pan flute. She is a founding member, singer and bass player of the increasingly popular rock band Lemonface. The band has performed at CBGB’s in New York and at Washington’s 9:30 Club, opening for the bands Flogging Molly in 2006 and Rooney in 2007.

Along with being a talented artist, the secondary school senior in a Washington suburb is a savvy businesswoman.

Wilentz and fellow Lemonface members Brendan McCusker, 16, drummer, and Richard Wynne, 16, guitarist, hired a producer to copyright their music and protect the band from intellectual property theft by licensing its songs through several Internet music sites, including iTunes, DigStation and CD Baby. Now, in addition to selling T-shirts and CDs at Lemonface live performances, the band cashes in on fees paid to download its music. All three members of Lemonface have parents who, as professional musicians, know the economic consequences of piracy.

Increasingly, people under the age of 19 are copyrighting their original songs and compositions, which makes them eligible for public performance royalties, said Phil Crosland of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). More than 3,400 writer/composers under the age of 19 are members of ASCAP, and about 60,000 are in their 20s, he added.

In the United States, copyrights, patents and trademarks are legal forms of intellectual property protection. Copyright protects authors of literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and other intellectual works.

“If you’ve written a music composition or song you should be entitled to some kind of compensation whenever it is publicly performed,” Crosland said.

ASCAP, a professional organization founded in 1914 by several pioneering songwriters and composers, including Irving Berlin and John Philip Sousa, represents 300,000 individuals and provides public performance licensing for nearly 8.5 million songs and musical compositions to the users of music.

Because there is a tremendous amount of music use in the United States, the challenge for such organization as ASCAP is to keep people, especially teenagers who perform and listen to music, aware of current copyright rules and protections.

“We’ve got an entire generation that has grown up with the Internet and really believing that everything on the Internet is free or should be free,” Crosland said.

Even when a person streams or downloads copyright music to a personal computer, including sample demos, there is an element of “public performance,” Crosland said.  To comply with U.S. law, any user that performs or broadcasts copyright music -- whether it is a radio station or a restaurant or an Internet site such as iTunes -- is required to obtain permission to use the copyright material. This is easily done through a license from one of the three performing rights organizations (PROs) representing music creators recognized by the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976: ASCAP, Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) and SESAC (originally known as the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers).

Each time music is publicly performed from an Internet site, the copyright holders -- including the songwriter, composer and publisher -- receive payment from one of the PROs. According to Crosland, the most frequently visited Internet sites today are licensed by ASCAP for that public performance.

ASCAP began a search in 2004 for an effective campaign to educate teens about legal downloading of music, Crosland said. Early in 2007, ASCAP partnered with iSafe, a national children's Internet safety organization sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice and
industry leaders like Microsoft and Verizon, to launch a new comprehensive school program based on a cartoon character, Donny the Downloader. This year alone, 2.2 million middle and secondary school students will be introduced to Donny, a typical 14-year-old who discovers his illegal downloading really hurts people.

For now, Wilentz and Lemonface are just having fun doing what they love, but Wilentz plans to make music her lifetime career. “I’m young but I know I definitely want to be in the music industry playing and writing,” she said.

“I’ll be playing music for the rest of my life – absolutely -- if not with Lemonface then with something equally great.”

More information about Lemonface is available on the band’s Web site.

Additional information on legal downloading of copyrighted material is available on the iSafe Web site.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

By Carolee Walker
USINFO Staff Writer