The New Copyright Manifesto

UW Law’s 2022 Distinguished Shidler lecturer Kevin J. Greene of Southwestern Law School, on how music industry practices, and the structure and function of copyright law, replicate inequality and expropriate the creativity of marginalized artists.

Many of the performers and composers in legacy Black music have never been compensated for their cultural production, despite longstanding acceptance of their formative influence on the music industry. Copyright law doctrine includes formalities that continue to divest what is due to Black artists, widening the racial justice gap in the entertainment industry.

A Yale Law School graduate and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Kevin J. Greene is changing the industry and the legal academy on the issue of racial justice in intellectual property. He is the John J. Schumacher Chair and Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. Prof. Greene has represented artists like George Clinton, Spike Lee, Harry Connick Jr., Bobby Brown and rap group Public Enemy. He has been featured in the Netflix show “Explained” and quoted by media outlets such as Bloomberg, Wired, The Daily Beast and Rolling Stone magazine.

In this episode, Prof. Greene tells us about “The New Copyright Manifesto,” a proposal to overturn outdated and unjust practices and appeal to the U.S. Copyright Office to advocate for reparations. He outlines how copyright registrations and copyright terminations divest Black cultural production and explains why this is not just an American copyright law problem, but a global one.

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