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Blues Brother aids blues’ birthplace

NEW ORLEANS — Add Dan Aykroyd’s name to the list of celebrities helping New Orleans rebuild neighborhoods destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

The actor on Wednesday toured an area where developers plan to build homes for police officers, firefighters and other “first responders” on 21 storm-battered properties in the Gentilly neighborhood. Aykroyd has lent his time and money to the Blue Line Foundation, one of the project’s developers.

The “Saturday Night Live” alumnus and star of “The Blues Brothers” said building affordable homes for public safety workers is key to New Orleans’ recovery.

Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August 2005, breaching the New Orleans levees and devastating much of the city.

Ronstadt, Harris and Tritt join in MerleFest

WILKESBORO, N.C. — Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and Travis Tritt are among the many acts performing at this year’s MerleFest in the North Carolina mountains.

The 22nd annual festival opens Thursday and continues through Sunday at Wilkes Community College in northwest North Carolina.

Folk great Doc Watson is also scheduled to perform. The festival was named in honor of Watson’s late son, Merle Watson, who died in a tractor accident in 1985 at age 36.

The event celebrates traditional music in many forms. Ronstadt, for example, will perform mariachi songs in Spanish.

Several bluegrass artists will also perform, including the Del McCoury Band, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Peter Rowan, The Grascals, Dailey & Vincent, Mountain Heart with Tony Rice and more.

Brit Bragg says EU copyright plan bogus

STRASBOURG, France — British singer Billy Bragg blasted Wednesday a proposed European Union law to nearly double music copyright to 95 years, saying it would give a huge windfall to major recording labels.

The European Parliament will vote Thursday on extending royalties for performers beyond the current 50-year limit, which would bring the EU in line with the United States.

EU governments must approve the rules before they become final.

Bragg said he didn’t oppose longer copyrights but the EU plan “simply perpetuates recording contracts that were signed in the last 50 years,” taking no account of the way the Internet is changing the recording industry.

He said these contracts gave artists a cut of 8 percent to 15 percent of the wholesale price of a record, which reflected the high costs — up to 65 percent — that labels paid to physically make and transport records.

“Now that they no longer have to do that, that money will go straight into their bottom line,” he said. “This legislation offers the multinational record corporations a potential windfall of the size of the invention of the CD” when fans bought a second copy of albums they already owned on vinyl or cassette.

Instead, he called on EU lawmakers to vote for a Green Party amendment that would, after the initial 50 years, grant copyright to a national collecting society to share among artists and performers.

The EU rules would not change copyright protection for most European composers and lyricists, who currently receive lifetime copyright protection that is passed on to their descendants for another 70 years.

Bragg also said copyright laws needed to focus on commercial use instead of crackdowns on people swapping music with friends or kids using a song in a school play.

“We are against the idea of criminalizing music fans,” he said.

He said the recording industry needed to find new ways to make money out of free music “because they’re ain’t no way we’re going to stop it.” He notes that commercial radio has been able to generate advertising income out of playing music for free.

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