IP meets pop culture

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Indiana Lawyer Focus

A class of 10 students at Indiana University Maurer School of Law - Bloomington has been getting hands-on experience helping an intellectual property lawyer who works with musicians, actors, and other entertainers on contract and intellectual property issues.

"Intellectual Property Practicum: Legal Aspects of the Music Industry," is a capstone course for students with an interest in practicing intellectual property and entertainment law.

"There's an underpinning of intellectual property law in most everything in this class, and it's tied to popular culture, it's tied to music," said Indianapolis attorney Robert Meitus, who teaches the course.

"The students listen to music and watch TV and read books," he said. "So when they listen to the songs we're working on, or see a TV show a client is on, it's quite remarkable to have those opportunities to bring the law to life. A contract dealing with an actress on a primetime TV show is a much more effective teaching tool than a casebook might be about a principle out of a 19th century case."

The course started as an idea from an Internet law course Meitus taught in 2002, prior to teaching the practicum, during which students worked with him on a domain-name dispute involving pool champion Jeanette Lee, also known as "The Black Widow."

In that case, Lee, a resident of Indianapolis, asked for help with the issue and he suggested he could take her case pro bono if she would let him have students help; she agreed.

After Lee's registration of jeanettelee. com lapsed, someone in Armenia registered the site, according to a decision posted on the National Arbitration Forum's Web site,

The entity that owned was using the site not to promote her, but to sell goods and services that were not relevant to Lee.

Ultimately, the students and Meitus helped Lee win the arbitration because she met the criteria of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers' policy regarding domain-name disputes.

"The students really reacted to working on a live legal dispute, a matter that was real as opposed to in a book," he said. "We go back and use that decision in work that we do in cases that are similar to that one."

Domain-name disputes and other types of cases the students work on have come through his firm, Meitus Gelbert & Rose, and through the Creative Arts Legal League, a low or nofee referral service for artists and musicians who need legal help.

Working with a number of musicians and entertainers also lets him choose and assign many smaller assignments. That way, students get the experience and will likely see some kind of result while they are still in the class and not months or years later, he said.

"Our practice allows the students to work on a variety of high-profile cases," he said. "If they're not actually doing the work, we have some where they're shadowing attorneys as clerks would."

In those cases, the reason is generally because the firm isn't representing the client pro bono, but the client must still give permission for students to shadow.

"Most lawyers have to deal with contracts ... but the students have never looked at a real legal contract so much as studied the concepts of contract law," he said. "Just looking at even boilerplate clauses and talking about why certain jurisdiction or venue clauses are important, warranties of representations and how they work, tends to be well received by the students."

While Meitus said most of what the students work on is confidential, he could say the students have been working on a contract for a music producer who is "a very real, well-known artist ... on a major label." Another client is "an actress on a major network television show. There was a contract with a management company that fell apart."

Students are also researching a copyright infringement case involving a song.

"Our client is the potential plaintiff alleging the infringement," he said. "The students get to listen to the music and decide whether it's substantially similar under the law. They get to think strategically about how to solve that, whether to file suit, and of course you'd try to negotiate a settlement beforehand if possible."

"This class presents unique challenges that other classes don't," Josh Radicke, a 2L in the class, said via e-mail. "While we do have a less strict format, we also have more responsibility. If you fail to prepare for a normal class or forget an assignment, you're going to be embarrassed or you're going to hurt your grade. In this class, if you fail to do something that you're supposed to, you're going to hurt not only yourself and possibly your grade, but you're going to fail your client and your fellow students who are working with you on a project."

Meitus added that confidentiality is first and foremost with the students.

"I tell my students if they ever want to talk about the cases, they need to have a reunion or call me," he said.

"I'm sure you can imagine the 'juicy' information that passes through an entertainment lawyer's office; a lot of it sounds like something from TMZ," Radicke said.

"There's a strong impulse to want to share information with friends and family about the goings on of famous clients, but confidentiality is ... perhaps the most important part of practicing law. A normal class can't prepare you in the same way this one does to be a mature professional who carefully keeps confidentiality and abides by our standards and ethical code," he added.

As tough as confidentiality might be, Meitus said some former students have used the class to get careers in entertainment law, including former students who've landed at Paramount Pictures and Sony/BMG.


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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues