Event teaches artists legal side of music
The UF law conference also focused on problems with online file sharing.
Published: Sunday, February 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, February 1, 2004 at 12:18 a.m.
For up-and-coming bands, contracts and royalties can be as important as writing songs and touring - a reality many young musicians don't discover until they are locked into unfavorable record deals.
This Saturday, at the University of Florida's second annual Music Law Conference, entertainment lawyers and music industry insiders tried to level the playing field by educating artists about the legal and business side of the music world.
"Most artists and musicians are getting into a field they want to make their career with no understanding of what they're getting into," said Ron Bienstock, a partner at a New York law firm and part-time musician who helped mentor young artists and aspiring entertainment lawyers.
In addition to informing musicians about their legal and business options, the conference brought together law students, entertainment lawyers and record label representatives to discuss the growing impact of online file sharing on the traditional music industry.
Though record labels have blamed file-sharing services like Napster and its many successors for a recent slump in sales, most of the attendees agreed that record labels will have to learn to live with file-sharing networks, which claim tens of millions of users worldwide.
In the conference's keynote address, Harvard professor and Internet law pioneer Charles Nesson stressed that the music industry's old strategy of trying to completely shut down file sharing was no longer a realistic option.
"One view of the subject has the ship of copyright sinking, and many people decrying it as a disaster," Nesson said.
But, he noted, "There are some parts of the world where the music business has been extremely vibrant without copyrights. The music business may be in trouble, but music itself may survive and thrive."
However, he doesn't expect digital technology to make copyrights obsolete. Rather, he predicted that the music industry will adapt, with services like Apple's iTunes, and make legal, online music-buying a more appealing option for typical consumers.
"For awhile, (record labels) had their heads in the sand," Nesson said after the address, adding, "it's always going to be possible for someone who is interested and capable to get digital products for free."
Jason Gordon, the UF law student who organized the conference, said speakers like Nesson will help broaden the event's appeal.
"We're trying to build on what we did last year with more speakers from around the country, and bands from around the country," he said. This year, musicians came from North Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Ohio, California and New York, as well as from around Florida, performing at local bars and clubs as part of a conference-sponsored music showcase.
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