Congressman Calls for Tech Neutrality at Entertainment Law Initiative Luncheon

It was a packed house at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica on Friday morning.
Associated Press

It was a packed house at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica on Friday morning for the 17th annual Entertainment Law Initiative luncheon.

The event honored Russ Frackman with the 2015 service award as well as five rising-star lawyers, each of whom received a scholarship from ELI after writing a 3,000-word essay on a compelling legal issue facing the music industry. (Brian A. Oliver from University of Miami was the top winner for his brief titled "One Album Warrants One Award.") The day celebrated young achievers while at the same time pointed out that U.S. copyright laws were last amended before the recipients were even born — "in the 8-track era."

Indeed, outdated legislation was the hot topic at the luncheon as speakers criticized the patchwork of royalties and loopholes that have guided song ownership for decades. "Laws should be technology-neutral," said keynote speaker Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee on courts, intellectual property and the Internet, adding that doing the right thing is complicated "when you can't predict what happens next — we risk getting a more fragmented system."

Although Nadler's constituents are in New York, the congressman made sure to emphasize that his district "represents all" when it comes to music, saying that the debate over pre-1972 copyrights is "free of partisanship."

Longtime RIAA counsel Frackman offered his own anecdotes and words of wisdom from his 45 years of working in music law. Ultimately, "litigation is the worst way to solve these issues."