By Chris Saunders
Things got downright funky at TJSL on Thursday, December 6, when the king of funk himself, the legendary George Clinton came to campus to meet with Professor K.J. Greene and three TJSL students who will be interning on Mr. Clinton’s legal team.
The leader and founder of Parliament-Funkadelic (P-Funk), Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Clinton has become a leading figure in the fight to re-claim the copyrights of his biggest hits from the record companies. The copyrights of Clinton’s and many other 70’s artists songs begin to expire in 2013, and a pitched-battle is underway for the artists to win the copyrights to their own songs back from the record companies.
“Like many African-American artists, he found his copyrights appropriated by labels and publishers--a topic I was among the first to analyze in legal scholarship,” said TJSL entertainment law professor K.J. Greene, who has extensive experience representing artists in the music business. “George Clinton is such a creative genius that, along with James Brown, he pioneered the creation of funk music, a genre incorporating hard rock, bebop jazz, soul and straight-up blues. Along the way, his work blazed the trail for hip-hop music, of which he is the grandfather.”
“I’m really glad to be here,” said Clinton. “We need this kind of professional advice in this complex area of copyright. (TJSL) can help us get a grip on some of the court rulings.”
Clinton is involved in multiple cases involving his music copyrights, and is meeting with a lot of resistance.
"I want to be known as the man who brought it to the attention of America about the copyright issues,” Clinton said in a post on TJSL’s Facebook page. “That’s what I would like my legacy to be, to have turned people on to the fact they need to fight for the rights to their music.”
Jillian Kates 1L, Pauline Isidro 2L and Jeff Berneking 3L are the three interns who are working with Clinton. All are part of the Intellectual Property Fellowship program at TJSL.
“It’s pretty surreal meeting Mr. Clinton,” said Berneking. “This is a chance to apply what I’ve learned in IP classes!”
Pauline Isidro says it is “mind-blowing to meet a music legend like George Clinton. Parliament-Funkadelic is the DNA for all of the music I love.”
“It’s really just an amazing opportunity to work with someone who is a pioneer of artists' rights, as Mr. Clinton is,” said Jillian Kates.
The chain of events that led to the association between Clinton and TJSL began at a conference TJSL hosted in November, "Music Copyright Terminations: The Ticking Time Bomb Has Arrived," which featured top entertainment law attorneys, many of them TJSL alumni.
“Mr. Clinton's team, led by Phil Cenedella, attended my Music Copyright Termination conference last month, and asked if I could assemble a team of students to work as interns on his numerous copyright cases in conjunction with some top law firms in LA and Seattle,” said Professor Greene. “Our students are getting the experience of representing a musical legend on some the most cutting-edge copyright issues out there. I am proud of these students and the stand they have taken for copyright justice.”
"It was great to see our school involved with such high caliber and high profile of a project," said Rezwan Khan 3L, who is a longtime acquaintance of George Clinton. "George Clinton is a legend in music and we should all be very honored to be assisting him with his legal needs."
Finally, what could be more appropriate than a few closing words from Dr. Funkenstein himself: “We’re making the funk, and the funk is making us.”
Flashlight 2013 is the campaign to help musicians restore their copyrights.