Edgar Bronfman Keynotes 7th Annual ELI Luncheon
The entertainment industry must avoid being swayed by controversial arguments that its efforts to curb illicit file-sharing marks an impediment to technological innovation and development, according to Warner Music Group chairman and CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. who spoke at the GRAMMY Foundation's 7th Annual Entertainment Law Initiative (ELI) Luncheon & Scholarship Presentation.
In a keynote speech delivered Friday at the Regent Beverly Wilshire in Los Angeles, Bronfman was unambiguous is his opposition to enterprises that permit the unauthorized sharing of intellectual property. "We must insist - and we will insist - that businesses predicated on the theft of property are not businesses at all," Bronfman said. "They are criminal enterprises and they must be treated as such."
Bronfman's remarks were delivered in the shadow of the MGM vs. Grokster case, which is set to be heard by the Supreme Court on March 29. At stake is the landmark Betamax decision of 1984, which establishes the legitimacy of technology that allows both infringing and non-infringing uses.
"To those people who attempt to obfuscate the true issue by arguing that this case is really about technology vs. content, more than it's about overturning the Betamax decision, my response is one word - nonsense," Bronfman said.
"To suggest that the law is such a blunt instrument it cannot distinguish theft from commerce, illegal activity from legal activity, is simply wrong. No one is advocating a law that inhibits the development of transforming technologies. But we will not permit technologies, in the names of progress or any other, to promote and engage in the desecration of the long-established principle of intellectual property rights."
Citing recent deals in the new media sector, Bronfman said it is obvious that the music industry "gets the picture" with regard to technology, supply and demand, and music.
"We fully understand that our own success lies not in preventing people from getting what they want, but in providing it to them in different ways, "the Warner chief exec said. "In doing so, we must strike a balance, one that nurtures technological innovation while at the same time protecting the very content that inspires innovation in the first place."
In his opening remarks, Recording Academy President Neil Portnow referenced a recently filed amicus brief on behalf of The Recording Academy and other artist rights organizations in support of MGM in their case against Grokster. " We are proud that our voice had an influence and can make a difference, " Portnow said.
The GRAMMY Foundation, in concert with some of the nation's most prominent entertainment attorneys, established the Entertainment Law Initiative (ELI) in 1998 to promote discussion and debate about the most compelling legal issues facing the music industry today. One of the premier educational initiatives of ELI is the national legal writing contest and scholarship program, which is co-sponsored by the American Bar Association.
Comprised of three major components, including a legal seminar series, a national scholarship competition, and a high-profile luncheon, ELI invites law students to write a 3,000-word essay on a legal topic facing the music industry. A cash scholarship of $5,000 is awarded to the author of the winning paper, while $1,500 is awarded to each of four runners-up. Additionally, through a partnership with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law/Yeshiva University, the ELI finalists' papers will be published in its Arts & Entertainment law journal. Each winner receives airfare, hotel accommodations, and a ticket to the GRAMMY Awards telecast, as well as invitations to other GRAMMY Week activities.
Attending the gala was 2005 ELI competition winner Adam Giuliano of the New York University School of Law. His essay, "Steal This Concert? The Federal Anti-Bootlegging Statute Gets Struck Down, But Not Out," examines the constitutionality of 18 U.S.C. § 2319A - i.e. the "anti-bootlegging statute" - under the Copyright Clause. Giuliano concluded that "the anti-bootlegging statute represents a constitutional exercise of the commerce clause power that does not undercut the Copyright Clause."
Giuliano was asked to briefly argue his position by ELI guest, former U.S. Attorney General, Janet Reno.
Friday's luncheon was also attended by the 2005 ELI scholarship runners-up: Adam Halston Dunst, New York University School of Law ("'It's Mine! No, It's Mine! No, It's Mine!' Works-Made-For-Hire, Section 203 of the Copyright Act, and Sound Recordings"); Kristina Groennings, University of California, Berkeley School of Law ("An Analysis of the Recording Industry's Litigation Strategy Against Direct Infringers"); Carlos Ruiz de la Torre, the University of New Mexico School of Law ("Digital Music Sampling & Copyright Law: Can the Interests of Copyright Owners and Sampling Artists be Reconciled?"); and Kara M. Wolke, the Ohio State Moritz College of Law ("Some Catching Up To Do: How the U.S., in Refusing to Fully Sign on to the WPPT's Public Performance Right in Sound Recordings, Fell Behind the Protections of Artists' Rights Recognized Elsewhere in this Increasingly Global Music Community").
Manuscripts were judged on clarity of expression, originality of thought, depth of analysis, relevance to industry and essay requirements.
ELI Scholarships were awarded by newly appointed ELI Advisory Committee Chair, Don Passman.