By Terron East, J.D. ’17
While the music industry has undergone an influx of substantial changes within recent decades, critics have argued that the legal frameworks designed to govern this industry have become anachronistic and incompatible with the industry’s seemingly inseparable relationship with modern technology. Recently proposed legislation, such as the Songwriter Equity Act, has sought to mend such gaping holes within copyright law by allowing for a more just level of compensation for spins of composers’ musical compositions on internet radio stations. However, while this recommended revision to the Copyright Act offers a possible solution to the unfair levels of compensation reaped by composers, such a solution is by no means a panacea to the problems that plague musicians.
Formed in 1998, the Recording Artists Project (RAP) was created with the objective of providing fledgling artists with the legal counsel necessary to protect their musical rights and build their brand, long before they’re able to take advantage of any newly proposed changes to royalties from radio play. As potential streams of revenue are continually presented to new artists throughout the onset of their careers, it has become more important than ever for these musicians to become aware of their intellectual property rights in order for their careers to flourish. More importantly, RAP serves as an indelible opportunity for HLS students to not only gain first-hand interaction with clients, but also grants students the opportunity for real world application of copyright and trademark law. Having served as both a student participant for RAP and intake director, I’ve been involved in a number of RAP projects throughout my time at HLS, ranging from LLC formations and band agreements to contract negotiations with record labels and copyright split agreements amongst several different musicians.
In addition to providing students with an outlet to apply Intellectual Property law, RAP has made concerted efforts to assist in the long-term career goals of its HLS participants. Accordingly, RAP has regularly hosted speaker events ranging from discussions regarding recent musical copyright infringement suits and their potential fallout, to panel discussions regarding the changing roles of record labels and managers within the current digital climate of music. Moreover, RAP wishes to form a community of students who have a passionate interest in entertainment law. As such, RAP also hosts excursions to events such as Berklee College of Music’s Urban Music Symposium. Such networking opportunities allow for students to both learn of recent changes within the music market and also to form ties with other HLS students interested in a career path in entertainment law as well.