Web music likely to lure pirates

GOOD MORNING: Technology is grand — but let’s talk about artists’ rights — in the new technology bringing digitally distributed music on the Web. This week’s announcement about the marriage of Microsoft and Sony Music Entertainment is more evidence that everybody wants to get into the act, the potential multibillion-$ Web-sited music biz. And one of these tangents to that new music biz is the copyright protection biz for the artists and producers/labels. One of those already called to assist in this all-enveloping part of the new biz is Joe Smith, no stranger to music biz having headed Capitol-EMI Music, Warner Bros. Records and Elektra/Asylum. He has been asked for his input by Intel, which is interested in a protective accessory to all the Web input. The product that Smith says Intel is interested in is Supertracks, a company now in Portland, Ore., and moving to L.A. I spoke to one of its co-founders, Craig Berkman (partnered with Charles Jennings), who admitted that Smith has been invited to be an adviser: “He has taught us more (about the music biz) in five minutes than anyone else in five years!” Their product is “a proven solution” to prevent piracy and to protect the songwriters, lyricists and labels, Berkman said. “It’s a major challenge.” Smith said he has spoken to five record companies about Supertracks … . I asked ASCAP president Marilyn Bergman, just back from Oz enclaves, about the music marriage of Microsoft and Sony, etc. She admitted, “Protection is a very serious problem. We have been working on it five years. But what looked like a problem five years away — is now upon us. I think there’ll now be a big change in the way music and records are distributed. … We are in discussions with all the major labels — including Sony — and are confident they will report to us (about music sales from the Web). We’ll be dependent on them reporting to us — until we can have our own devices. The good news it that it all means greater audiences. I’m confident it will be worked out. After all, the labels don’t want to give away any money either. There’s too much money involved.” As for those who take music off the Web and then reproduce it, that is, of course, another story — piracy is the name of that song.

NO MATTER WHAT CONGRESS THINKS — the public’s appetite for “Law & Order” is such that Dick Wolf and NBC are readying an expansion of the brand with a new series, “Law & Order, S.V.U. (Special Victims Unit).” It will deal with crimes such as sex violence, etc. “It will widen the world of ‘Law & Order,'” says Wolf. He has signed Ted Kotcheff to produce from N.Y. Kotcheff’s many credits cover big and small screens, from comedy to drama — like “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” and “Fun With Dick and Jane” to the 1999 telepic “Crime in Connecticut.” The new series will also boast Robert Palm as exec producer — he was part of the original writing team on “Law & Order” … Charles Winkler, writer-director of “Rocky Marciano,” which airs Saturday on Showtime, is readying another sports-themed pic, “The Fall Line” set on skis. It’s the first bigtime snow-set drama since “Downhill Racer.” Winkler’s (38) brother David (35) is director of “Road to Graceland” which airs on Cinemax this Friday. Both are sons of producer-director Irwin Winkler. Interestingly, “Marciano” airs between Showtime showings of “Rocky” and “Raging Bull,” both exec produced by Winkler, pere. And Charles Winkler worked on both of his father’s pix. Irwin is now prepping “The Shipping News” for Col. He will not direct the script by Ron Bass (from E. Annie Proulx’s Pulitzer-winning book).

SHOOTING ON THE BOMBING FLIGHT PATH: On the longhorn from Viesti, Italy, on the Adriatic, director Joe Sargent reports his night filming Tuesday was constantly interrupted by the NATO (U.S.) planes winging from the Foggia base to targets 90 miles away in Yugoslavia. Sargent’s shooting the “Shoo Shoo” feature starring Italy’s Lino Bamfi and Antonio Sabato. They resume in Rome next week … Jerry Schilling is en route to Memphis next month to take office as president of the Memphis and Shelby County Music Commission, whose mission is to develop and promote a viable, prolific music industry building on Memphis’ rich cultural heritage. Schilling also continues to develop the Fox feature “Last Train to Memphis” about Elvis. Jim Uhos is scripting … Christopher Reeve speaks at commencement exercises of Drew University, May 22, and at Williams, June 6. Reeve tells me, “I am honored they asked me.” He did his alma mater Juilliard and the U. of Virginia last year. Reeve reminds he speaks “without notes — there’s no place to put a piece of paper” on his wheelchair … Mary McDonnell (Class of ’74) is commencement speaker Saturday at her alma mater, Fredonia U. … Byron Allen chairs Fairfax High’s 75th anni celebration May 22 when alumni to be honored in the Fairfax Hall of Fame include Frank Rothman, Al Franken, Timothy Hutton, Chris Hill, Robert Wexler and Gower Champion (posthumously) … Barbara Lockhart is honored tonight by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) at the Century Club followed Sunday by a tour of four of her designed homes and the new Chasen’s … Eddy Arnold retires from showbiz Sunday at the finale of his gig at the Orleans Hotel in Vegas. But first, Arnold celebrates his 81st birthday the day before.