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USC Intellectual Property Update

Reported by Peter Jansson

The USC Gould School of Law presented its 7th Annual Intellectual Property Institute at the Beverly Hills Hotel on March 23. With several hundred attorneys, CPAs, business leaders and federal court judges in attendance, such weighty topics of Copyright, Patents, Trademarks and Right of Publicity were addressed throughout the day.

Hon. Pierre Leval (2nd Circuit Federal Court of Appeals judge) launched the day on the subject of Fair Use and how its application is useful in both defense and protection of copyrighted material in all manner of content – music, movies, television, books, architectural design and other creative pursuits. A spirited panel followed with Professor Mark Lemley who presented an animated whirlwind tour of patent law covering such groundbreaking decisions as the TiVo vs. Echostar dispute; Professor Thomas McCarthy showing why he’s the trademark expert discussing on all manner of trademark infringements and Right of Publicity from subjects as diverse as Paris Hilton to Google; and the venerable Professor David Nimmer giving his annual update on all matters relating to Copyright, including a decade review of Peer2Peer infringements beginning with Napster and the resulting decline of the music business.

Federal Trade Commissioner Thomas Rosch gave the audience serious food for thought over lunch, and the afternoon ventured on with various breakout sessions focused on Copyright, Patents and Trademarks issues surrounding everything from “Net Neutrality” to the effectiveness of the DMCA.

What does this have to do with the music industry – only EVERYTHING! The protection, enforcement and integrity of copyright is the very heart of the music industry. As a business, this industry is no longer focused on selling pieces of vinyl or plastic, but something intangible in a digital file. That intangible right is the cornerstone of our way to earn a living, and understanding its structure and how to protect it should be foremost in each and every artist, songwriter, label executive and publisher’s mind. We insure our houses and cars from theft – we should learn to protect our intellectual property in a similar manner.

Photo: Peter Jansson