Horowitz, Law Students Honored At ELI
GRAMMY Foundation event creates forum for spirited discussion
What looks like a world of chaos may in fact be a world of opportunity. That was one of the primary points stressed by Zach Horowitz, president and COO of Universal Music Group, in his role as keynote speaker at the GRAMMY Foundation's 9th annual Entertainment Law Initiative luncheon. The event, held Friday afternoon at the Beverly Hills Hotel, served both as a forum for some of the cutting edge issues in entertainment law, as well as an opportunity to honor the finalists in this year's ELI legal writing competition.
Horowitz, who conceded that he was making a rare public speaking appearance at the event, began with a great bit of humor, pointing out that he had never spoken in front of so many lawyers "without being under oath." He quickly established his bona fides as a longtime music lover, recalling youthful trips to the Rhino Records store and nights spent at seminal L.A. nightclubs such as Madame Wong's and Al's Bar — even pointing out that he successfully pushed for the Stanford Law library to subscribe to Billboard magazine. "I still love music," said Horowitz, "and I still don't consider myself a 'suit.' A sport jacket maybe — but not a suit."
Horowitz concisely described the troubling conundrum facing the music industry today: at a time of failing business models and declining sales, more music than ever is being listened to. His remarks quickly became a forceful defense of his company's strong position in protecting its assets against copyright infringement, citing its active role in litigation against Napster, Grokster, Kazaa, MP3.com and MySpace. But he was also quick to point out that the solution to music industry problems would not be found exclusively in the courthouse. "No one believes litigation is the answer, and it's not a replacement for innovation," Horowitz said, "But sometimes you have to litigate in order to innovate."
Young minds capable of both litigation and innovation were well-showcased at the event when the five writing competition finalists were honored. The ELI legal writing competition is open to law students from across the country who submit essays on legal issues facing the music industry. A grand prize winner receives a $5,000 scholarship, while the four runners-up receive $1,500 scholarships. In addition to the luncheon, the finalists are invited to attend several GRAMMY Week events. The writing competition is co-sponsored with the American Bar Association, and this year the grading process for submitted papers was opened up to include the broadest panel yet of attorneys from around the country.
The luncheon began with introductory remarks from GRAMMY Foundation Board Chairman Steve Schnur and a welcome from Recording Academy President Neil Portnow — who pointed out that one measure of the ELI's success and impact is that the work of previous ELI contest winners has actually been cited in Supreme Court decisions. Then Ken Abdo, Chairman of the ELI Executive Committee, introduced this year's finalists: competition winner Bimal Jaysen Rajkomar of U.C. Davis School of Law, and runners-up Joshua E. Carpenter of George Mason University School of Law, Goldie Gabriel of University of Houston Law Center, Michael Jude Galvin of UCLA School of Law, and Lyle Preslar of the Rutgers School of Law (Preslar's journey to ELI finalist is a particularly interesting one, as he was once the guitarist for legendary hardcore punk band Minor Threat).
In a departure from previous year's programs, the five finalists sat on stage together for a spirited discussion of their essays moderated by Abdo. Rajkomar's winning paper was titled "Dealing With Casual Piracy: Limiting Distribution Of Copyrighted Content With Digital Rights Management." The other finalists also took on the topic of copyright protection, but from a variety of angles that explored sampling, illegal downloading, satellite radio, and the complications of co-ownership of copyrighted material in an international marketplace.
The event also included the presentation of the ELI Service Award. Richard Blackstone of Warner Music Group introduced this year's recipient, Paul G. Marshall, an esteemed attorney in the field of intellectual property law. Marshall at first joked that he was being honored because, "I've outlived my contemporaries. There's no one left to honor." But concluded his remarks in moving fashion, pointing out how proud he was to be part of an industry that provided "millions of moments of music for millions of people."
Keynote speaker Horowitz brought the event to a rousing conclusion by calling on the industry to embrace the challenges facing it. "We need to be smart, nimble, and willing to take chances," he said. He described those in attendance as a "critical part of the fight for the industry's future," and said that in strong, confident partnership, "the industry will survive and flourish in the brave, new digital world."