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Alumni involved in movies, television, radio, and the Internet share stories from the entertainment field.

By Lewis I. Rice

Flick on your radio as your drive to work. Surf the Internet during lunch and make a purchase from a Web site. Come home, catch some TV, and run out again to the movies (don’t worry – your digital video recorder will save that program you like so you can watch it later).

It’s a typical day for many Americans. What most Americans don’t think about, however, is how lawyers play a role in their leisure-time choices. In fact, many George Washington Law School alumni, including this year’s graduation speaker, Dan Glickman, JD ’69 (see page 24), work for law firms and other organizations connected to the media and entertainment industries, handling such issues as contracts, patents, intellectual property, employment law, government relations, and litigation. They may not be stars of stage and screen (although a couple have experienced the spotlight in front of the camera), but they have, in their own ways, made it into show biz.

TV Technology

David Moskowitz, JD ’83, is executive vice president and general counsel of EchoStar Communications Corp., which owns Dish Network.

Here’s something most students don’t learn about in law school: the legal issues surrounding satellites. EchoStar Communications Corp. has launched 10 of them and, as executive vice president and general counsel, David Moskowitz, JD ’83, has worked to secure permission to build and launch the satellites and park them in space, as well as the warranties and indemnifications for the company’s essential product, which costs more than $100 million each.

Joining Colorado-based EchoStar in 1990 from a corporate attorney position in the home-building and mortgage industry, Moskowitz learned about satellite technology and the legal issues involved in beaming hundreds of television channels into living rooms across the nation.

“I’m fortunate enough to be with a company that lets me get involved in the business and help the company to grow not only from a legal perspective but from a business perspective as well,” he says.
His responsibilities include negotiating contracts with programming conglomerates, such as Time Warner and News Corp., so that their channels are included on EchoStar’s Dish Network. Occasionally, those relationships become contentious, as when Viacom threatened to deny EchoStar the Super Bowl broadcast unless the company paid more money and carried more of its channels.

Moskowitz initiated a lawsuit, alleging a violation of antitrust law, and eventually settled the dispute.
He manages an office of more than 20 in-house attorneys, some of whom oversee outside counsel on litigation matters, which can range from patent infringement suits to disgruntled customers filing in small-claims court. “We have a philosophy of probably being more willing than most to take a case to court when we believe we are in the right,” he says.

The general counsel also works on government matters, particularly FCC regulation, and lobbies Congress on legislation that affects the satellite TV industry. In one lobbying effort, EchoStar won a key legislative victory with the passage of the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999, which allows satellite subscribers to receive local broadcast channels, a breakthrough that inspired a surge of customers, Moskowitz says.

“We have been successful because we listen to what customers want, and we try to provide it to them,” he says. “If cable would have better listened to its customers, we probably would never have been successful.”

Matthew Zinn, JD ’89, is senior vice president and general counsel of TiVo Inc.

Customers also have shown that they want to control their TV viewing schedule, says Matthew Zinn, JD ’89, senior vice president and general counsel of TiVo Inc. He started with the California-based company in 2000, when it had about 40,000 customers. Now it enjoys more than 4,000,000 who use TiVo’s digital technology to record their favorite shows or find shows they may like to watch.

“I decided I wanted to work for a company that would take advantage of principles of digitization and changing some paradigms of how people use media,” Zinn says. “TiVo fit that bill completely.”
In those early days, however, the company faced threats from media companies charging that the recording device violated copyrights. TiVo responded that the technology allowed fair use of television programming.

Similar concerns about copyright violations were raised when the VCR hit the market, Zinn says. He notes that the content industry adapted and profited from the technology, selling tens of billions of dollars of VHS tapes and then DVDs.

“Every time a new technology comes out, it threatens the existing business models,” he says. “A lot of those companies decided to invest in TiVo rather than litigate. And over time, of course, people have gotten more comfortable with the technology.”

Though no longer facing copyright litigation from content providers for recording programs on a DVR, TiVo battles “a staggering amount” of patent suits, which takes up the biggest portion of his legal budget, says Zinn, who hires and monitors outside counsel to handle litigation. The company, he explains, is often threatened with suits by “patent trolls” who don’t have products but acquire patents in order to file suit.

TiVo also initiates suits to protect its 87 issued patents, recently winning a jury decision of $73 million against EchoStar’s use of DVR technology (the case is on appeal). But Zinn says the company prefers making deals with cable and satellite companies so that they can offer TiVo’s technology to their customers. “We think that’s a much better model than to try to extract patent licensing fees from a bunch of different companies,” he says. “We’re looking for win-win scenarios. Litigation for us is a last resort.”

Zinn also serves as the chief privacy officer for TiVo. The company captured attention when it announced that Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” was the most replayed TV moment in its history. Yet Zinn emphasizes that the company does not collect personally identifiable viewing data without express permission, its audience measurement surveys are based on anonymous aggregated information, and its privacy practices have passed muster with the Federal Trade Commission. He makes sure that personally identifiable information about what happens in your TiVo box stays in your control.

Law Firm Practice

Ian Ballon, JD ’86, LLM ’98, is an attorney with Greenberg Traurig in Los Angeles and Palo Alto, Calif., where he represents technology, media, and entertainment companies on e-commerce and Internet matters.

A n anonymous person posts critical information about a company on an Internet message board. Not much a company can do about that, right?

Wrong. At least if the company has Ian Ballon, JD ’86, LLM ’98, in its corner. The attorney at Greenberg Traurig, who splits his time between the firm’s Los Angeles and Palo Alto offices, prevailed in a lawsuit against the poster, who turned out to be a salesman for the company’s lead competitor. Because of that, Ballon argued that the Internet posting should be analyzed as commercial speech, rather than the broader protection afforded to Internet postings.

Like many legal cases in recent history involving the Internet and e-commerce, it broke new ground. And Ballon has been at the center of the action as a practitioner representing technology, media, and entertainment companies and as author of the three-volume legal treatise E-Commerce and Internet Law, which state and federal courts have cited in their decisions.

He graduated at a time few people had even heard of the Internet, but a move to Silicon Valley enmeshed him in intellectual property and computer litigation cases. That naturally transformed into more Internet work as the tech boom gathered steam in the mid-’90s.

“I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time,” Ballon says. “It was really exciting because there really wasn’t much [Internet] law at all. You had a palpable sense that the world was about to change in a very dramatic way.”

He began his treatise after giving a speech on Internet law at the American Bar Association convention in 1995. He drafted a 20-page outline on the subject, which by default was the definitive text at the time. Writing the treatise took several years because of his ongoing practice and the whirlwind of changes in the law, Ballon says: “I felt at many points like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike. As soon as I updated one chapter in the book, major developments erupted that made several other chapters obsolete.”

Today, the field is more settled, he says, though new laws and cases are always emerging in copyright, trademark, privacy, security, and Internet advertising. He has handled cases involving cybersquatting, phishing, spoofing, spamming, and other arcana of the Internet world. He is sure there’ll be new kinds of disputes too, but, when it comes to Internet law, even he can’t predict what the claims of tomorrow will look like.

Daniel Black, JD ’76, a partner with Greenberg Traurig in Los Angeles, has practiced entertainment law for more than 20 years, facilitating deals in the television and motion picture industries.

Working in the same firm as Ballon in Los Angeles, Daniel Black, JD ’76, has practiced entertainment law for more than 20 years, facilitating deals in the television and motion picture industries. But like his colleague and fellow GW Law graduate, he also makes sure to keep current with the latest trends in the industry.

To that end, Black recently completed a deal for his client, Microsoft, with Reveille, a television production and distribution company that will produce original content for MSN, Microsoft’s Web site. He also just wrapped up a “landmark deal” for the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson and its content-producing division JWTwo Entertainment for a new television series on TBS consisting of five original episodes each week with a running time of just two-and-a-half minutes each.

“Both of these deals are cutting edge,” Black says. “Everyone’s trying to find the eyeballs, where the consumer is.”

Black continues to represent established studios along with producers and television and sports personalities. His clients include Linwood Boomer, creator of the hit TV show Malcolm in the Middle, and sports announcer Joe Buck. In addition to completing deals, he also initiates them, matching clients with mutual interests.

Black has worked on the studio side as an in-house attorney with Columbia Pictures and Paramount Pictures and later established his own full service, entertainment-generated law firm.

He has seen the entertainment business change radically over the years, he says. Companies are trying to tap into hand-held devices, wireless devices, the Internet as well as the traditional avenues of TV and movies—trying to “monetize their investments and products,” he says.

“You really have a choice as a lawyer,” Black adds. “You can say, ‘I cut my teeth doing the deals in this way in this space,’ but then you’re going to be left behind. Or you can be mindful of the new areas, not only learn about them but construct the paradigms for them. At the end of the day, I want to try to spend my time being of service to clients whom I feel will be successful.”


Steven Lerman, JD ’72, manager of the firm Leventhal Senter & Lerman in Washington, serves as the outside general counsel for CBS Radio and has worked with Howard Stern.

Sooner or later, everybody always asks Steven Lerman, JD ’72, about Howard Stern. After all, while representing CBS Radio (formerly Infinity Broadcasting Corp.), Lerman once defended Stern’s right to broadcast his often outrageous radio show and until very recently was involved in a lawsuit against him.

But while Stern grabs attention as the self-styled “king of all media,” Lerman may be the reigning attorney of radio. Manager of the firm Leventhal Senter & Lerman in Washington, Lerman now serves as the outside general counsel for CBS Radio, the nation’s second largest radio concern. His firm also handles several other major radio clients he brought in, including Citadel Broadcasting Corp., Beasley Broadcasting, and Greater Media.

Lerman’s first exposure to the radio industry came as a new attorney in 1973, when he represented two former employees of Metromedia who bought a radio station in San Jose. Those businessmen were the founders of Infinity Broadcasting (later purchased by CBS Radio), for which Lerman helped buy more than 40 stations, in addition to overseeing talent agreements, sports rights transactions, and FCC administrative work.

But he reserves his greatest passion for his First Amendment work, which was extensive when Stern was employed by his client, which resulted in dozens of cases before the FCC and in the courts.
“I think the FCC in the last four or five years has completely gone off the rails from a First Amendment point of view,” says Lerman, who has appeared before FCC commissioners many times in his career. “There are a series of decisions that are frankly extremely prudish and not consistent with the law.” Some of those decisions are now being challenged in the courts.

Until recently, he was on the other side of Stern in a recent suit that alleged the radio personality used CBS Radio airtime to promote his new stint at Sirius satellite radio and received a hidden financial interest in the process. The case has now been settled on terms that are confidential, Lerman says.
Despite that, Lerman calls Stern “a perfectly fine fellow” who is shy in person. He has represented other radio personalities such as Oliver North, Jim Hightower, and Laura Ingraham— proof that he’ll take on a wide array of clients, regardless of their political views.

“I do have my limitations, but I would not shy away from people who are highly conservative or highly liberal,” Lerman says. “Certainly the First Amendment has to have room for those points of views. The strength of radio is promoting a robust exchange of ideas.”

Bruce Collins, JD ’87, is corporate vice president of C-SPAN. He has been with the network since 1981.

In a different forum, C-SPAN also has promoted the exchange of ideas since its inception in 1979. And Bruce Collins, JD ’87, has been a part of it for most of that time. In fact, in 1981, he became the first person hired by the public-interest network whose job was not to operate equipment.

Now the corporate vice president of C-SPAN, a nonprofit funded by the cable industry, Collins deals with FCC regulations, vendor contracts, board management, and intellectual property issues. Starting as a manager before attending law school, Collins served even then as the fledgling station’s “de facto general counsel because I knew how to pronounce certiorari,” he jokes. He also soon became an on-air personality when he filled in one day for founder Brian Lamb and continued to host programs until a few years ago. Though at C-SPAN, he says, “Even if you’re on air for 20 years, you’re not a celebrity.”

While C-SPAN covers Congress and governmental matters, “as a journalistic organization, we keep at arm’s length from Congress,” Collins says. An exception occurred in the early ’90s when Congress passed the “must carry” rule, which required cable providers to offer all local broadcast stations. C-SPAN sued on First Amendment grounds and lost; some cable operators subsequently dropped C-SPAN programming.

As capacity has increased, C-SPAN has recovered its presence but faces more competition, with Internet sites and government agencies offering an array of public-affairs content. In response, C-SPAN keeps adding content, Collins says, pointing to the organization’s expanded Web offerings and audio streaming of government events. The network also protects its copyright, most recently when C-SPAN asked unauthorized Web sites to remove the much talked-about video of Stephen Colbert’s performance this year at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

“We’re here to serve the public’s interest. We do it within the business model of cable and satellite TV,” Collins says. “The competition is always there, and we always have to be competitive and to prove our value.”

Edwin Durso, JD ’78, is executive vice president of administration at ESPN. He has been with the company since 1989.

One of the most valuable media properties in the United States is ESPN, where Edwin Durso, JD ’78, has worked to help build the sports entertainment empire since 1989. At that point, the company was 10 years old, with a single domestic channel and 400 employees. Today, it has multiple TV networks, a radio network, a magazine, Web site, a robust international presence, its own cell phone (Mobile ESPN), retail outlets, and 4,500 employees.

“It was primed at that point for very significant growth,” Durso says. “And one of the things we’ve never done is underestimate the world’s appetite for more and different kinds of sports.”

He demonstrated his own hunger for sports as a starting shortstop earning All-Ivy League recognition at Harvard. A year after graduating GW Law, he began a 10-year stint in the Office of the Commissioner of Major League, where he rose to executive vice president and chief operating officer.

After helping to negotiate MLB’s first cable deal with ESPN, Durso was hired as the company’s general counsel. He is now executive vice president of administration, handling a broad array of operations including legal, government relations, communications and human resources, and has continued negotiating deals for ESPN, which today include acquiring rights to National Football League, Major League Baseball, and National Basketball Association broadcasts.

While such major sports properties remain the core of the business, ESPN has branched out with television movies (Durso had a cameo role—playing himself when he was an MLB executive—in Hustle, a movie about Pete Rose) and talk shows like Pardon the Interruption. Durso also points to ESPN’s use of multimedia, like the Internet and cell phones, to give fans their sports fix when they’re away from the television.

“Our mission is to serve sports fans,” he says. “We’re trying to give them the opportunity to consume what we do wherever they are and however they want.”

Movie Studios

Preston Padden, JD ’73, is the executive vice president of government relations for the The Walt Disney Co. His past jobs include serving as president of ABC Television and helping to build FOX into a major television network.

When he started his current job, Preston Padden, JD ’73, led a real Mickey Mouse operation. The executive vice president of government relations for The Walt Disney Co., he helped convince Congress to pass the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, which allowed his employer to retain the rights to the beloved cartoon mouse for an extra 20 years.

Such powers of persuasion are a hallmark of his role as chief lobbyist for Disney, in which he interacts with legislators, administrative agencies, and executive branch officials both in the United States and abroad in representing the studio’s interests.
“Lobbying makes democracy possible because there are lobbyists for every sector of our society and every interest group,” he says. “If the process works right, which it does 99 percent of the time, the elected representatives hear from all these different sectors of our society, and then they make a decision.”

Previously, Padden served for just over a year as president of ABC Television, which is owned by Disney. Prior to that, he helped build then upstart FOX television into one of the major networks. As head of Disney’s government relations office in Washington, he and other industry representatives have responded to complaints about broadcast indecency by touting “blocking tools that actually allow parents to have complete control of what comes into their homes.” In addition, he has spearheaded efforts against piracy, working with government officials in China and Russia and antipiracy organizations to shut down duplication facilities.

While focused on government relations, Padden has also challenged government regulation. Last year, as a guest speaker in a GW Law media and communications class, he noted that when he was at Fox, the company fought for a waiver of government policies designed to promote competition that in reality stifled it.

“It was a very good lesson in how sometimes well-intentioned government policies ended up being counterproductive,” he says.

Jimmy Horowitz, JD ’86, is executive vice president of business and legal affairs at Universal Pictures in Los Angeles.

On the other side of the country—and in another side of the business—Jimmy Horowitz, JD ’86, serves as executive vice president, business and legal affairs, for Universal Studios in Los Angeles. The man whom The Hollywood Reporter dubbed “the don of deals” negotiates the agreements—from the top-of-the-marquee talent to the behind-the-scenes production people—that make possible the 16 to 20 movies Universal releases each year. He says each production is comparable to an individual business for which the studio has to evaluate how much it should invest.

“The hard part of our business is we take risks on every movie,” he says. “It’s like introducing a new product into the marketplace each time.”
Those risks include paying multimillions of dollars to actors in an era with fewer and fewer bankable stars, he says. While such deals are breathlessly followed in trade publications, Horowitz says for him it’s not a glamorous business. General Electric, which owns Universal, expects the same returns from the studio as it does from its jet-engine or medical-supply businesses. And he doesn’t enjoy long lunches with celebrities – he engages in long negotiations with their agents and lawyers.

“You have to find satisfaction in the work aspect of it,” says Horowitz. “If you’re doing it because you want to meet movie stars, you’re definitely choosing the wrong side of the business.”

Productions he has been involved in recently range from the blockbuster King Kong, with Academy Award-winning director Peter Jackson and stars Naomi Watts, Adrian Brody, and Jack Black, to more modestly budgeted fare, such as the recent United 93. The latter film, about passengers fighting to take back a hijacked airplane on 9/11, is one of the movies he’s most proud to be associated with. “In these jobs, which are mostly about entertaining and making money, every now and then you get to use the skills that you’ve acquired all the way back to law school to be able to make a contribution,” says Horowitz.

Jill Lerner, JD ’80, is senior vice president of corporate affairs at MGM in Los Angeles.

Jill Lerner, JD ’80, is using her legal skills to benefit another Hollywood studio. As senior vice president, corporate affairs and human resources, for MGM, she heads human resources and handles employment law issues and executive agreements. While she could do the same kind of job in another type of business, she says the entertainment industry provides rewards she couldn’t find elsewhere.

“By virtue of the business we’re in, the people are more interesting, the subject matter is more interesting,” says Lerner. “I’m surrounded by creative people all the time. I love movies, I’m a television junkie, so being able to have that closeness is terrific.”

Indeed, as a member of the senior management team, she is privy to the activities of every department, what deals the company is contemplating and what projects are in the works for the film and TV studio. Since she began at MGM in 1991, more women are making decisions in the industry, she says: “You have women in very significant positions of power throughout the networks, the studios, the ad agencies, the talent agencies. I do think we’ve made strides.”

According to Lerner, more lawyers are also involved in the entertainment industry, even producing and acting as agents. She jokes that, like everyone else in Hollywood, she’d like to direct, too. But really, she’s happy being a lawyer who plays a role in the entertainment of our lives, one of many GW Law grads who can say the same thing.

Lewis I. Rice is a freelance writer and former editor of the Harvard Law School alumni magazine.