(L-R) President's Merit Award winner Allen Grubman, Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow, 2018 Entertainment Law Initiative Service Award recipient Michael Reinert
Photo: Michael Kovac/WireImage.com
Entertainment Law Initiative Event Honors Music Advocates, Present & Future
The Recording Academy's Entertainment Law Initiative event and scholarship presentation turned the focus of GRAMMY Week toward today's crucial creator's rights issues. As the nation's preeminent gathering for entertainment attorneys, this event provides an annual opportunity to unite a community of professionals, honor those doing excellent work in the field, and award scholarships to outstanding law students via a writing competition.
"I think Entertainment Law Initiative manifests, generally, what we do as an Academy," says Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow. "We look retrospectively, and we honor our past, we study our past, and we learn from our past. But we also are there to nurture and develop the next generations of music makers, but also everybody that's in the infrastructure of the music business."
This year's event honored two such difference-makers in the entertainment law community. First, Michael Reinert, a partner at Fox Rothschild, LLP, received the 2018 ELI Service Award for advancing and supporting the music community through service. Reinert's award presentation served as a highlight of the ceremony, complete with a hilarious mock biopic movie trailer (Michael Reinert is "Michael Reinert") and a personalized congratulations video from GRAMMY-winner Stevie Wonder. Who says lawyers don't know how to have fun?
"It's very humbling and very overwhelming to be considered in the group of names of these people who have come before me, so many of whom I've grown up admiring, almost in awe of," Reinert says, mentioning previous honorees Julie Swidler and Elliot Groffman as predecessors whom he respects.
Additionally, Allen Grubman, a partner at Grubman, Shire, Meiselas, & Sacks, P.C. received the Recording Academy President's Merit Award in recognition of his many years protecting the interests of creators.
"I want to thank the Recording Academy for this honor," Grubman said humbly, before joking, "Most of what I get are complaints." He also lauded the support the Academy provides to young aspiring lawyers by way of the writing competition scholarship program.
Grubman also put his money where his mouth was, pledging $25,000 toward a scholarship, a generous contribution and proof that his diligent service on creator's behalf aligns beautifully with the Entertainment Law Initiative.
"We do something very important… We bring joy to the world," Grubman said, closing his remarks. "This is a very special thing that I do, that we all do. And I just want to say, I believe the entertainment area is just beginning for lawyers."
Sure enough, this declaration is more than validated by the entrants to this year's writing competition, who all exemplify the possibilities of progress.
Chosen as this year's writing competition winner, Rebecca Pollack, a law student at Lewis & Clark School of Law, received a $10,000 scholarship for her winning paper titled "Innovation or Exploitation: Is It Time To Update The DMCA Safe Harbors?"
"The copyright office is dealing with the big debate going on between copyright holders and online service providers about the big safe harbors and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and whether they are effective," Pollack explains. "My paper basically looks at one of the big issues underlying it, which is these technical measures and finding some clarity around those."
Renowned attorney and Entertainment Law Initiative Program Chair Ken Abdo invited Pollack to the stage to discuss the core problem addressed, as well as the proposed solution, outlined in her paper.
Runner-up Megan Abner, a student Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, was awarded a $2,500 scholarship for her paper, "Effects Of The FCC's 'Internet Freedom' On The Music Industry And Potential Collaborative Solutions."
The imaginative work of bright students intimates a smiling future for entertainment law. However, no one says it will be easy. Reinert had some simple yet powerful advice to add for aspiring entertainment attorneys:
"When you hit a brick wall, keep going."
As a testament to this spirit of perseverance, New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the event's keynote speaker, spoke of how his deep passion for jazz music has driven him to go the extra mile on the legal front to support music creation, protection, and preservation, including preserving and digitizing a collection of Louis Armstrong recordings and cracking down on live concert ticket scalping, ultimately reforming the system to add criminal consequences to high-volume ticketbot offenders.
The Recording Academy echoes this support and drive to enact change and has been working tirelessly to enact legislative change to modernize creator's rights policies.
"We've been working for years to get a bill that will work that can pass, that addresses our issues and contemporize the whole process of licensing and all the attendant elements," says Portnow.
In fact, those efforts are coming to fruition in real time. Immediately following the event, Portnow joined a group of music creators at a judiciary committee meeting to testify at a hearing titled "Music Policy Issues: A Perspective From Those Who Make It." Portnow will be backed at thearing's continued deliberations by GRAMMY-winning performers Booker T. Jones and Dionne Warwick, GRAMMY-nominated artist Aloe Blacc, GRAMMY-nominated songwriter Tom Douglas, and platinum-selling producer/engineer Mike Clink.
Now, more than ever, is a critical time in the fight for music creators' rights, and the Entertainment Law Initiative continues to remind the music community of both the difference one devoted individual can make and the great strength we have when we join our voices together.