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Savings with Beneplace

Fri, 04/06/2018 - 08:00

Prosperity is in the perks at the Beneplace Savings Program. You’ll find everything you need from ski tickets to contact lens discounts and much more. Just visit the Travel and Health & Wellness pages on the website to start saving today.

  • Wyndham Hotel Group – With Wyndham Hotel Group, you can save 20% on the best available rate at over 8,000 properties worldwide. Book today!
  • Discount Ski Offers – Hit the slopes this winter and save up to 50% at some of the finest ski resorts the United States and Canada has to offer!
  • Cruise & Vacation Perks – Double your vacation reward when you book a select cruise or tour vacation for six nights or longer.
  • TripBeat – TripBeat makes it easy and affordable to book the perfect resort vacation! Save up to 40% at more than 2,400 properties around the world.
  • AC Lens – For trendy eyewear at low prices go with AC Lens! Save 15% on contacts and 25% on glasses. AC Lens has the lowest prices—guaranteed!
  • Nutrisystem – Start losing weight and living healthier today with Nutrisystem! Lose up to 10 pounds your first month with an easy-to-follow 4-week plan.
  • SLEEFS – Save 25 percent on custom compression gear. Plus receive free shipping on orders over $40.

Current offers provided by Beneplace.

For more information on other discounts you’re eligible for as a member of the State Bar of Texas, visit texasbar.com/benefits.

Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange
The Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange is a multi-carrier private exchange designed for State Bar of Texas members and their staff and dependents. Available to both individuals and employer groups, the exchange offers a wide range of health insurance choices and more.

State Bar of Texas – Benefits & Services

Free legal clinic for veterans in Lake Jackson

Thu, 04/05/2018 - 12:00

Veterans in need of legal advice can visit a free clinic put on by the Brazoria County Bar Association and the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative on Saturday, April 7, in Lake Jackson.

Volunteer attorneys will be available to offer any veteran or spouse of a deceased veteran advice and counsel in any area of law, including family law, wills and probate, consumer law, real estate law, and tax law, as well as disability and veterans benefits. Those who qualify for legal aid and are in need of legal representation may be assigned a pro bono attorney to handle their case.

The clinic takes place at the Lake Jackson VA Outpatient Clinic, 208 Oak Drive South, 77566 from 9 a.m. to noon.

For more information, contact the Veterans Legal Initiative at (713) 759-1133 or go to hba.org

To view a list of other free veteran legal clinics around the state, please go to the State Bar’s Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans website at texasbar.com/veterans.

Live chat

Thu, 04/05/2018 - 10:18

Emma Hanes suggests attorneys check their website’s live chat settings to prevent Google search penalties.

14th annual People’s Law School to be held April 7

Thu, 04/05/2018 - 09:45

The People’s Law School, a product of the Tarrant County Bar Association and Tarrant County Bar Foundation, returns April 7 for a day of free legal education for the public.

Area attorneys and judges will volunteer their time to teach 50-minute classes on wills and estates, what to expect in a justice court, the basics of family law, adult guardianship and alternatives, landlord and tenant rights, grandparents’ rights, probate and alternatives, buying and selling a home, and immigration.

Participants in the People’s Law School will have the choice of attending three classes.

The event, planned by the TCBA People’s Law School Committee and underwritten by the Tarrant County Bar Foundation, is held each spring and attended by more than 300 area residents.

The People’s Law School takes place at Texas A&M University School of Law, 1515 Commerce St., Fort Worth, 76102, and runs from 12:30 p.m.to 4 p.m. Check-in is from 12 p.m. to 12:30 p.m.

For more information, go to tarrantbar.org/community/peoples-law-school.

Texas Bar Journal Must-Reads for April

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 11:15

Check out our editorial staff’s must-reads for the April issue: interviews with the State Bar of Texas president-elect candidates, Harvey’s impact on the Gulf Coast’s petroleum industry, and new changes attorneys should know about live chat. Don’t forget to catch up on Movers and Shakers, Memorials, and Disciplinary Actions.

The Issues: State Bar of Texas Election 2018
A Q&A with president-elect candidates Lisa Blue and Randy Sorrels.

The Issues: Texas Young Lawyers Association Election 2018
TYLA president-elect candidates Raymond Baeza and Victor Flores discuss issues they see facing young attorneys in Texas.

Lesson Learned?
A look at the Gulf Coast’s petroleum infrastructure after Hurricane Harvey.
By Derrick Carson and Gerry Pels

Live Chat
Changes you need to know to avoid being penalized in organic searches.
By Emma Hanes

UNT Dallas College of Law names dean

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 09:00

The University of North Texas at Dallas recently announced that Angela Felecia Epps will serve as dean for the UNT Dallas College of Law. Epps, the former dean of Florida A&M University College of Law, will start at UNT Dallas this summer.

Epps, who was offered the position after a national search, will replace Judge Royal Furgeson, the college’s founding dean. Ferguson will remain with UNT in a development role.


“Dean Epps embodies our students—from the Marines to her legal career to her academic work, she has shown how hard work and achievement go hand-in hand,” said UNT Dallas President Bob Mong in a press release. “We are excited to build on the sturdy foundation that Dean Furgeson has built in downtown Dallas, and I am deeply grateful to Royal for his commitment to the UNT Dallas College of Law—especially his leadership and passion for our students that has shaped this young law school profoundly.”

Epps, who served in the United States Marine Corps, brings more than 30 years of experience in the law profession to UNT Dallas. In addition to serving as a professor and dean at Florida A&M University College of Law, Epps was a professor and associate dean at the University of Arkansas Little Rock Bowen School of Law and a visiting professor at the New England School of Law and the University of Florida Levin College of Law. She also served six years with the Georgia Legal Services Program, which provides free legal services to low-income individuals.

The UNT Dallas College of Law was founded in 2013 and is based in downtown Dallas.

TBLS accepting certification applications for 2018

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 11:25

The Texas Board of Legal Specialization is accepting certification applications for 2018. You can find the specific requirements for each of the 24 specialty areas at the “Get Certified” section of tbls.org.

The Texas Supreme Court approved Child Welfare Law and Property Owners Association Real Estate Law as the newest specialty areas for board certification this year. Go to “Standards for Attorney Certification” for the specific requirements.

Certification applications are only available until April 30, 2018, and the exam is October 15, 2018, in Austin. If you have questions about the TBLS Board Certification program, please contact TBLS at (855) 277-TBLS (8257) or send an e-mail to tbls@tbls.org.

Texas Access to Justice Foundation announces David Hall Fellowship program

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 11:00

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation recently announced the creation of the David Hall Fellowship program for legal aid attorneys.

TAJF will fund and administer the four-year fellowship for an attorney to provide civil legal services to the 68 counties covered by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid.

The fellowship honors David Hall, who led TRLA for 42 years before his retirement in 2017. TRLA is the nation’s third-largest legal aid provider, serving 25,000 people annually.

“David Hall’s work in civil legal aid is legendary, and has improved access to justice for thousands of Texans in poverty,” said Richard L. Tate, chair of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation Board of Directors. “This fellowship will be a lasting reminder of David’s past and future impact on the lives of disadvantaged Texans along our border.”

Fellowship details and eligibility guidelines are currently under development. For updates and more information, go to teajf.org.

Apffel: The State Bar of Texas is Practicing Best Practices

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 06:00

Trey Apffel

Editor’s note: The following column also appears in the April 2018 issue of the Texas Bar Journal

As I write this column, we’ve just received the final reports from the State Bar of Texas’ 2017 fiscal year internal audit. The auditors found no areas of noncompliance. In fact, the findings are quite positive.

The CPA firm of McConnell & Jones conducted the audit, which focused on the State Bar’s compliance with the Public Funds Investment Act and the statutes, rules, and policy provisions related to the following State Bar departments: Membership, Advertising Review, Budget and Finance, Purchasing and Facilities, and Information Technology.

The audit reports are available on the State Bar website at texasbar.com/finances. Some highlights appear below. 

  • The Information Technology Department has implemented some of the industry’s best practices with regard to website usability and security. The report describes the My Bar Page member portal as “robust and easy to use.”
  • The State Bar procures a majority of its materials and services under the Comptroller of Public Accounts procurement contracts for goods and services provided by the comptroller. “This saves [State Bar] resources, ensures compliance with state procurement requirements, and increases efficiencies in the procurement process.”
  • The Membership Department’s efforts to promote e-billing and online payments are saving money and making our billing processes more efficient. E-billing statements increased from 4,200 in fiscal year 2016 to more than 34,000 in fiscal year 2018. Online payments now make up 57 percent of the department’s transactions, up from 50 percent two years ago. (Thank you to everyone who pays dues online.)
  • The Advertising Review Department is described as “very customer service oriented,” based on the auditors’ interviews and document reviews. Instead of just rejecting an advertisement for not complying with the rules, the staff tries to work with lawyers to help them gain compliance within the rules—a fact that impressed the auditors. (The Advertising Review Committee is currently working to make our ad review process even more user-friendly. Stay tuned.)

Two words stand out as I read the audit reports: best practices. The reports highlight areas where the State Bar of Texas has adopted best practices to better serve our members and the public. The audit period ended just before I started as executive director in December, but I am committed to continuing the State Bar’s pursuit of best practices in everything we do.

CLE Scholarships Available
Another way the State Bar of Texas serves its members is by making sure cost isn’t a barrier to receiving high-quality CLE. TexasBarCLE offers scholarships for live courses, video replays, and online classes and webcasts by filling out the form at texasbarcle.com/scholarship. The scholarship is open to any attorney who hasn’t already accumulated 15 or more hours of accredited CLE during his or her MCLE reporting year. TexasBarCLE approved more than 500 scholarship applications last year that provided more than $200,000 worth of high-quality CLE to Texas lawyers. If you’re interested, please don’t hesitate to apply


Trey Apffel
Executive Director, State Bar of Texas
Editor-in-Chief, Texas Bar Journal
(512) 427-1500
@ApffelT on Twitter

Have a question for Trey? Email it to trey.apffel@texasbar.com and he may answer it in a future column.

Earn CLE credit at the 16th Annual Texas Minority Attorney Program

Mon, 04/02/2018 - 08:58

The State Bar Office of Minority Affairs and the State Bar of Texas Diversity in the Profession Committee will host the 16th Annual Texas Minority Attorney Program on Friday, April 20 at South Texas College of Law Houston.

The Texas Minority Attorney Program is a one-day live CLE seminar and networking event geared toward minority and women solo and small firm practitioners.

Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about a variety of topics, including immigration and ethically compliant business development, and hear “Views from the Bench” from a panel of judges.

Participants can earn 6.5 hours of MCLE credit (including 1 hour of ethics credit). Register here for $90 by April 6. Breakfast and lunch are included.

TMAP was created to serve minority and women attorneys and legal organizations in Texas.

Go here for more information.

Texas Center for Legal Ethics offers free online ethics CLEs on Texas Day of Civility in Law

Fri, 03/30/2018 - 09:00

The Texas Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas, and the State Bar of Texas have declared April 20 as the “Texas Day of Civility in Law.”

As part of the recognition of the day, The Texas Center for Legal Ethics, or TCLE, is offering a pair of free online ethics CLEs to Texas attorneys. The CLEs are “The Noble Lawyer,” and “Developing Your Professional Reputation.”

Texas attorney and former TCLE Executive Director William J. Chriss will present “The Noble Lawyer,” based on his book of the same name.

“Developing Your Professional Reputation” will be moderated by Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, and panelists include Texas Supreme Court Justice Debra Lehrmann, past State Bar President Roland Johnson, and San Antonio attorney Lamont Jefferson.

“The Day of Civility gives all Texas attorneys an opportunity to reflect on their obligation to practice law with the utmost respect for judges, fellow attorneys and the public that we serve,” said Beverley Godbey, chair of the TCLE Board of Trustees, in a press release. “Both of these online programs provide a useful framework for lawyers to incorporate greater civility into their professional lives.”

For more information, contact TCLE Executive Director Jonathan Smaby at (512) 427-1477 or jonathan.smaby@texasbar.com.

Opinion: National Vietnam War Veterans Day

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 13:00

Richard Pena left on the last day of American military involvement in Vietnam.

The last American combat troops left Vietnam on March 29, 1973—45 years ago today. On that last day of American military withdrawal, pursuant to the Paris Peace Accords, there were two commercial planes left on the runway that were to take those of us left out. Most Americans had left as had most of the press, officers, and doctors. Lining the path to the two planes were the enemy Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers. Those of us left walked the gauntlet of Vietnamese soldiers to the last two planes. A Vietnamese soldier took a picture of us getting on the plane, which later hung in the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). The two planes took off from Tan Son Nhat Airport in Saigon as the last prisoners of war were leaving Hanoi. That was the end of the long American nightmare in Vietnam. Two years later the American Embassy fell.

On March 29, 2018, America will observe National Vietnam War Veterans Day, which was added to our national holidays last year pursuant to the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017. It is good and right that America now recognizes the courage and sacrifices of the approximately 2.7 million American soldiers who served in Vietnam in a war that history now recognizes as a colossal mistake. PBS recently aired a 10-part, 18-hour look at the conflict by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick titled The Vietnam War. President Lyndon B. Johnson aptly described this quicksand war when he said, “I don’t think it’s worth fighting for and I don’t think we can get out.”

It is important that we not only remember those who served in Vietnam, but also the lessons from the war. In fact, of all the mistakes made in Vietnam, the gravest would be our failure to learn from these mistakes. Vietnam taught us that we should be ever vigilant not to send American soldiers halfway around the world to a foreign land—into a civil war—for a questionable cause and without an exit strategy. Regrettably, our policymakers did not learn the lessons of Vietnam when U.S. forces were sent to Iraq without clear understanding of the consequences.

It is important for policymakers and the public, especially the young, to understand that war is not a video game and wars have consequences. For example, over 58,000 American soldiers were killed in Vietnam and countless others were wounded, many severely. Of the 2.7 million who served, many came back with addictions or post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. It is estimated that 8 to 11 percent of the homeless are veterans and of those, almost half are Vietnam veterans.

The families of these soldiers also grieve and suffer. Earlier this month, I made a presentation before the Rotary Club of Dallas, and afterward, a doctor shared with me that his brother was a Vietnam veteran who came back with severe PTSD. He would have nightmares at night, choke his wife, and load a gun when he got angry. To this day he suffers from these symptoms and only now is he beginning to speak about his experiences. He cannot forget. Nor should America forget.

Many Vietnam veterans say “thank you” for finally recognizing their service. Some others, myself included, want America to understand that we went to Vietnam because we felt we were, in some strange way, sacrificing for America. The America we sacrificed for begins with the Constitution and the First Amendment freedoms of speech, of the press, of the right of the people to peacefully assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Over 58,000 died in Vietnam for these freedoms.

We have fought external enemies and we must fight against those within our country who would tear down our institutions and subvert our democracy.

Ronnie Dugger, founding editor of the Texas Observer, said it best: “[F]or God’s sake, don’t get into stupid wars.”

Richard Pena left on the last day of American military involvement in Vietnam. He is an Austin attorney and the co-author of Last Plane Out of Saigon.


Update: Through the editing process, the number of American soldiers that were killed in Vietnam was changed from “over 58,000” to “over 47,000.” The correct number is “over 58,000.” This article has been updated with the correct information.

Stories of Recovery: My personal story is one of success—and mental illness

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 06:00

By C. Kelly Rentzel

Editor’s note: This post is part of the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program’s Stories of Recovery series. TLAP offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call TLAP at 1-800-343-8527 (TLAP) and find more information at tlaphelps.org.

According to a recent study, those who score top grades in school are four times more likely to develop bipolar disorder than those with average grades. The correlation is even stronger among those who study literature. Like many lawyers, as a high-achieving English major, I already had two strikes against me.

My résumé reads like a success story: I was salutatorian of my class at Highland Park High School and a National Merit Scholar. I graduated from Rice University with honors and a double major. I was awarded a full-tuition scholarship to the Dedman School of Law at SMU; there, I won the 1L “Best Brief Award,” served on the staff of the SMU Law Review, and graduated with honors. I began my 15-year legal career at Baker Botts LLP and later spent six years as a federal court staff attorney. In 2012, I was hired as the first in-house attorney at one of Texas’ largest banks; I now serve as its general counsel. Best of all, I am the mother of a bright and beautiful 8-year-old daughter.

But my story has had its challenging chapters: While at Rice, I had a spontaneous major manic episode and spent a month in a psychiatric facility. I was diagnosed with Bipolar I. Fourteen years later, while working at the courthouse, I had severe postpartum depression that failed to resolve and, after two years, bottomed out into severe, medication-resistant clinical depression. Following a suicide attempt, I was hospitalized and received life-saving shock treatment. Four months later, I began working at the bank. I have since been blessed with five years of remission and remain on a steady regimen of medication and talk therapy.

My personal story is one of success and mental illness. A diagnosis of mental illness is not an indication of weakness or lack of ability; in fact, as the aforementioned study suggests, it may indicate quite the opposite. I was fortunate to have received my diagnosis in such an undeniable way (mania is hard to ignore) so early in my life. Because I was so young, I did not feel responsible or ashamed of my bipolar diagnosis, and it served as a roadmap rather than a roadblock. Through the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program, I hope to help others accept, understand, and use their own diagnoses to improve their lives.

Register now for the 29th Annual Texas Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Convention

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 16:23

The 29th Annual Texas Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Convention will take place on June 1-3 at the Austin Marriott South.

The convention will feature national speakers sharing their thoughts about current research on mental health, substance abuse recovery, and maintaining a more balanced professional life. Attendees will also have a chance to earn at least 6 hours of CLE (including ethics).

Fill out the registration form here and mail it to TLCL Convention, c/o Sara Dysart, 206 Primera Drive, San Antonio, TX 78212. The registration fee is $225 before May 4, which includes the CLE, the Saturday banquet, and the Sunday brunch. Scholarships are available.

Book your room by May 14 for the reduced rate of $109 per night.

TLCL is a volunteer group for lawyers in recovery and works in partnership with the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program (TLAP) of the State Bar of Texas.

For more information, please contact TLAP at (800) 343-8527.


Updates from the State Bar President-elect Candidates

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 13:42

Editor’s note: The following message was sent to State Bar of Texas members on Tuesday.

In an effort to encourage voter participation and educate members on the 2018 State Bar president-elect candidates, the State Bar is sending periodic emails with messages submitted by the candidates addressing topics of their choosing. The fourth messages are available at the links below.

Note: Opinions expressed by the candidates do not necessarily reflect the views of the State Bar of Texas.

Lisa Blue

Randy Sorrels
Houston Click here to read Lisa Blue’s message.  Click here to read Randy Sorrels’ message. 

Voting in the 2018 election for State Bar president-elect and district director will take place April 2 to May 1. On April 2, attorneys eligible to vote will be mailed an election packet that includes a paper ballot, candidate brochures, and instructions on how to cast their vote. An email also will be sent to attorneys, giving them instructions on how to vote online. Be sure to check your spam filter. Election emails are sent by the State Bar’s election provider, Election Services Corporation, and will be sent from statebaroftexas@electionservicescorp.com.

The election packet and email will contain a voter authorization number (VAN) with instructions on how to vote online. Attorneys may use this VAN and their bar card number to log on to the election website to cast their ballot. If attorneys do not have their VAN, they can also go to the State Bar website, texasbar.com, to cast their vote during the voting period.

Attorneys may either submit their paper ballot via mail or vote online using the information provided. The secure election system will not allow duplicate votes.

More information on the election is available at texasbar.com/election.

TexasBarCLE honors outstanding volunteers

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 16:00

Six attorneys and one justice were honored for their exceptional contributions in 2017 to the State Bar of Texas’ continuing legal education efforts. TexasBarCLE gave Standing Ovation Awards to Justice Patricia Alvarez, of the Texas Court of Appeals for the 4th District in San Antonio; William J. Chriss, of Gravely & Pearson in Corpus Christi; Mark A. Correro, of Correro & Leisure in Houston; Mickey R. Davis, of Davis & Willms in Houston; Linda C. Goehrs, of Horrigan & Goehrs in Houston; Heather L. King, of KoonsFuller in Southlake; and Kennon L. Wooten, of Scott Douglass & McConnico in Austin. “To recognize CLE volunteers who stand out each year for their extraordinary energy, commitment of time, and leadership, the TexasBarCLE staff created the Standing Ovation Award,” said Hedy Bower, director of TexasBarCLE. “The State Bar thanks these committed lawyers who strive to improve the profession through education.”

Should you pursue life rights for movies?

Mon, 03/26/2018 - 15:00

When it comes to actors, musicians, and other notable people, much information—from major events in their lives and careers to the personal fodder for tabloids—is made public and can generally be used for fiction films and documentaries.

But the intimate, sometimes sordid details of the subject may not always be readily available on your average gossip rag. That’s when filmmakers, who want to get closer to the subject, pursue life rights to a story.

“The best kinds of documentaries tell a human story from a person’s perspective—so much of that is having that access,” said Megan Gilbride, an Emmy-winning and Producers Guild of America Award-nominated documentary producer and panelist on SXSW’s “To Get or Not to Get: Life Rights & Non-fiction Films.”

Life rights are legal agreements with a subject or estate that give full access to a subject—including artwork, journals, recordings, and anything else that can give extensive insight into the person.

Panelists Lisa Callif and Dean Cheley, both partners in entertainment law firm Donaldson + Callif, Fox Rothschild partner Lincoln Bandlow; and Gilbride explained the nuances of such agreements.

Life rights can protect filmmakers from litigation. Typically, agreements include a waiver of claim that ensures a subject won’t sue the filmmaker if he or she doesn’t like the depiction. These waivers can also grant the filmmaker exclusive access to the subject.

According to the panelists, the disadvantages of not having the life rights:

  • It’s tougher and more expensive to get Errors & Omissions Insurance;
  • Distribution can be limited with a lack of the subject’s participation; and
  • The risk of litigation increases.

That’s not to say life rights agreements aren’t without their downsides—and that every panelist agrees filmmakers should seek such contracts when producing documentaries.

The idea of a life agreement that hands over the keys to an entire life story can be off-putting to a subject and scare them away from participating in production. These contracts can be especially troubling when filmmakers are building trusting relationships with the subject or estate, Cheley said.

“Should we seek life rights for documentaries? My answer is generally no,” he said.

Another focus of the panel was the right of publicity. This is an individual’s right to control commercial use of his or her name, image, and likeness. Whereas life rights agreements deal with accuracies in portrayals in film, cases involving alleged violations of the right of publicity deal with advertisements and alleged exploitation of a person’s image.

However, Bandlow said questions linger on the success of such cases when they deal with advertisements, and that they typically get overturned. This was the case with actor Dustin Hoffman after he claimed in 1999 that Los Angeles Magazine violated his right of publicity in a digitally altered photo spread featuring his image.

He was initially rewarded about $3 million by a federal judge in Los Angeles but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California reversed the decision, concluding the photo spread was speech protected by the First Amendment and not commercial speech.

Bandlow called litigation difficult in the case of violation claims in movies. “A movie isn’t commercial so it’s protected speech,” he said. “It’s transformative so it’s protected.”

Something the attorneys are paying attention to is a California appellate court’s upcoming decision in “Gone With the Wind” actress Olivia de Havilland’s June 2017 lawsuit against FX over her portrayal in “Feud: Bette and Joan.”

The veteran actress of Hollywood’s Golden Age said the docudrama recounted stories that never happened or that she never gave permission to use, and portrayed her as a gossip. De Havilland made claims of false light, defamation, and violation of her right of publicity.

Bandlow said the case could set a standard for how right of publicity cases are handled in California.

The future of licensing music on social media

Mon, 03/26/2018 - 14:30

Panelists Tracy Gardner, senior vice president of digital strategy and global business development for Warner Music Group, Bobby Rosenbloum, vice-chairman of global entertainment and media practice at Greenberg Traurig, and Ted Suh, vice president of digital music at musical.ly, discussed some of the hot-button issues in social media music licensing at SXSW session this month.

The music industry is carefully watching the Music Modernization Act, which was introduced in the House and Senate in January 2018 and aims to streamline the music licensing process.

One of the reasons startups operate without licensing agreements is the cost in terms of staff time and money, Suh said. One of the benefits of doing business this way is that it gives startups data to present to record companies that shows how their platforms can benefit artists and what they will get from these deals. Once in place, these deals generate royalty money for the record companies while giving the social media platforms legitimate access to the catalog of music.

The free model helps drive negotiations because the startup can show how many listeners they have, especially in “hot markets” like tweens and teens, Suh said.

“We have a lot of eyes and ears on our platform… How can we leverage that to partner with these companies to accomplish everyone’s goals?” Suh said.

While record companies would prefer platforms to license their music from the beginning, it’s not a reality, Gardner said, so the data startups generate by operating without a license can be helpful.

“The recognition of what these services are doing to fuel consumption both in those platforms and on other platforms; we’re taking a more open approach to licensing,” Gardner said. “We realize that these platforms are moving so quickly. If we were to try to hold them back, then we’re losing out.”

This take on music licensing has broken from the traditional method used by record labels, Gardner said. “Traditionally, perhaps the music industry has been slow to the game when it came to tech, and almost would try to block it. Now we’re actually leaning in and trying not only to focus on what we can do, but how we can grow the ecosystem,” Gardner said.

There’s also the benefit to artists of being on the platform, Gardner said.

“These platforms are helping breaking artists to cross over into a global sphere, as opposed to being in their territories and not being able to expand beyond that,” Gardner said.

Crossing over into the global sphere creates a whole new world of problems for licensing, Rosenbloum said.

“The minute that you are dealing with global licensing, you can’t just go to a music publisher … and get global rights,” Rosenbloum said. “You have to do deal with societies country by country.”

To ensure everyone is getting their share of the licensing rights, musical.ly and other platforms used third-party companies that specialize in publishing databases to track down the owners, Suh said.

Another hot spot for licensing in social media is user-generated content, or UGC, created in the form of remixes and covers of songs, Rosebloum said.

The lack of a structure in current copyright statutes may not even apply to UGC, Gardner said.

“We always want to be respectful of artist rights. This is a whole new world of creating derivative works where perhaps a lot of the older contracts don’t even address this,” Gardner said.

Startups are taking steps toward ensuring that their licensing agreement partners are compensated for the usage of their material, whether by the service or through UGC, Rosenbloum said.

Suh said his company has integrated with a third-party company to track all of the music uploaded to musical.ly. If an uploaded song matches one in the database that’s not permitted, then the song is blocked. Remixes and covers by users often can slip past the filters in place though, but Suh said he sees that problem becoming less common.

“I think we’re going to see content ID get much better,” Suh said, noting advancements in technology and artificial intelligence specifically.

Law Night at the Ballpark to raise money for veterans’ legal services

Mon, 03/26/2018 - 14:23

Join us for Law Night at the Ballpark as members of the legal community bring out their friends and family from around the state to beautiful Globe Life Park in Arlington to raise funds for veterans’ legal services.

The Texas Rangers take on the Houston Astros at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, July 3. For every advanced ticket purchased, a $5 donation will be made to the Texas Access to Justice Foundation’s Joe Jamail Endowment for Veteran Legal Services.

Stay after the game for a special post-game fireworks show to celebrate Independence Day.

Get your tickets here.