April 8, 2009 / 10:07 AM / 11 years ago

Songwriter retires as head of music rights group

Singer Melissa Etheridge (R) accepts the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Founders Award from ASCAP president and chairman of the board Marilyn Bergman (L) at the ASCAP Pop Music Awards in Hollywood April 18, 2007. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar-winning songwriter Marilyn Bergman is stepping down as president and CEO of ASCAP, a music-royalties collection group that also lobbies on behalf of composers and copyright owners, the organization said on Wednesday.

Bergman, 82, had led the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers for 15 years, but will remain on the board of directors. Her successor will be elected during a board meeting later this month.

In a statement, she said it was “the right time” to step aside, because of a number of music projects she is developing with her husband, Alan Bergman.

The Bergmans won three songwriting Academy Awards for their work on the original “The Thomas Crown Affair,” and the Barbra Streisand films “The Way We Were” and “Yentl.” They were nominated on 13 other occasions.

The couple just completed work on Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming film, “The Informant,” and have a number of other projects in the hopper.

While at ASCAP, Bergman helped lobby for some key pieces of legislation, including a 1998 law that extended copyright protection by 20 years — to the life of the author plus 70 years.

With her departure, both ASCAP and its rival BMI have lost formidable female leaders in recent years. Frances Preston retired from BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) in 2004 after 18 years at the helm.

Reporting by Dean Goodman

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