There are all kinds of licensing protections available to musicians. The main purpose of organizations like ASCAP is to make sure that artists are compensated for their work. In the past this has meant that the unknown artist just puts their music out there without any protections at all.
But now there is Creative Commons Licensing. It is a way for musicians to determine what level of ownership they want to maintain while giving away songs. You can read about it here: http://creativecommons.org/
The idea is that you choose what level of protection you want, create the legal document licensing your songs, and then you are protected. You can say if people can sample your songs; re-record them; and if they can sell derivatives of your songs. A breakdown of the licensing options available can be found here: http://creativecommons.org/about/licenses
geekd writes: Disgusted with the RIAA's lawsuits against music lovers, San Diego based rock / punk band The Experiments has released their new album, "What Kind Of Animal?" for free under the Creative Commons license. Anyone is free to download, distribute, re-mix or otherwise use the songs for non-commercial purposes. "It's ridiculous that a single mom gets fined $1.9 million for downloading 24 songs. It' criminal, and the RIAA are a criminal organization," said the band's bass player, Dave Blood. "So, we say, take our songs for free. You deserve them."
geekd writes: Once again, DRM only hurts legit content purchasers. "An unusual glitch has angered some "Avatar" Blu-ray owners. For these unlucky people, since the disc won't play on their Blu-ray players, their new "Avatar" DVD serves no real purpose other than to sit idly on the coffee table... It appears the main culprit concerning playback issues with "Avatar" is, ironically, the disc's DRM (digital rights management). DRM, which is the very technology meant to prevent bootleggers from illegally copying the film, is the very technology preventing people who actually paid for the disc from watching the film. Even with updated firmware, a lot of Blu-ray players weren't prepared for these security measures. Despite the security problems, bootleggers are having a field day. Pirated copies of "Avatar," according to Los Angeles Times, were available as early as January. "