E. Scott Johnson of Ober|Kaler addresses attendees of the "CConference on Creativity & Law", the first in a yearlong series of events celebrating the 25th anniversary of Maryland Lawyers for the Arts.( Photo courtesy of MLA.)
On April 10, 2010, more than 100 attorneys, law students and artists gathered at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore for Maryland Lawyers for the Arts’ (MLA) “Conference on Creativity & Law”, the first in a projected yearlong series of events celebrating MLA’s 25th anniversary. Funded by the Baltimore City Bar Association, the event focused on copyright law.
“We had a great event and a great turnout,” says Marcia Semmes, MLA Executive Director.
Kembrew McLeod, a professor of communication studies at the University of Iowa, hosted a screening of his documentary Copyright Criminals, a study of the “history and influence of music sampling…in the age of intellectual property” that he produced for the PBS program Independent Lens. McLeod led further discussion on the subject after the screening.
This was just the first of multiple events that the MLA has planned for its anniversary. Also in planning is a workshop aimed at helping attorneys learn the laws surrounding the music industry, a video contest and another event at the American Visionary Art Museum.
Directed at artists, the video contest, planned for later this year, will solicit two- to three-minute videos based on “What Makes Lawyers Laugh”, a planned exhibit at the American Visionary Arts Museum in the fall.
“The 25th anniversary events are important,” notes Semmes, “but I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that what we’re celebrating is 25 years of service to Maryland artists. That work is more important than ever in today’s wildly complicated online environment.”
Every year, MLA provides pro bono legal referrals and information to more than 100 artists. The organization also provides artists with workshops and speakers, as well as an arts-focused legal newsletter.
“MLA is extremely grateful to the Maryland State Bar Association for its assistance in these efforts,” said Semmes. “The Bar Foundation provided start-up funding for our newsletter, MLA Arts Brief, and also for an initiative that enables us to reach out to attorneys around the state to increase our non-Baltimore pool of volunteers. We now have volunteers in Montgomery, Ann Arundel, Howard, Prince George’s and Frederick Counties, thanks to the Bar Foundation.”
MLA wants to bring together representatives from a major music label, a local music label and an attorney from the field music law to inform both artists and attorneys on the importance of the law. MLA also focuses on engaging law students, to get them more involved and, in so doing, create a new generation of volunteers.
“MLA continues to look for new volunteers who are looking to put in some pro bono hours in really interesting and creative ways,” notes Semmes. “While many of our attorney volunteers are experts in the fields of intellectual property and entertainment law, others are looking for experience in those areas, and MLA offers them the opportunity to get some with the help of those more experienced attorneys.”