Careers: Interviews
Jeff Young: Top-tier Expert in Entertainment and New Media, Professor, Lawyer

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, has an exclusive interview with the internationally regarded expert and lawyer in entertainment and new media, Jeff Young.

Jeff Young has been a lawyer for 17 years, beginning in corporate and real estate law, and leading to Intellectual Property, Entertainment and Media Law matters. Jeff has negotiated with major labels and corporations including Virgin Records, BMG, Disney, Sony and Warner/Chappell. He has acted for and advised a Grammy winning artist, and was a managing partner of an entertainment law boutique that represented international and local, major and independent film and TV clients. Companies that have received his legal work include the Fox Family Channel and Shavick Entertainment. He is a member of the Law Society of British Columbia and has previously served on the board of directors of the Pacific Music Industry Association. Jeff, in the past, acted as lead counsel on one of the largest business immigration cases ever in Canada.

Jeff is also a college professor of Entertainment and Media. He currently teaches Law and New Media, Film Law, and Music Industry Deal-making for the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) and is the head of the Entertainment Business Management Program at the Vancouver Film School.

In addition to his legal and teaching careers, Jeff is also a music producer and composer with credits on projects delivered to Warner, Universal, CBC, CTV, NBC, Global and the Knowledge Network. He is affiliated with a prominent US music supervisor with Oscar and Grammy award-winning credits, and has been a guest panelist at New Music West as a speaker on the topics of “Your Band is Your Business”, and “Music for Film and Television”. Jeff was a juror for the Western Canadian Music Awards in 2004, and was also credited on the production of the music and sound mixes for three major video games – Dark Angel, The Hulk and The Simpson’s Hit and Run.

Discussion:

Q: Jeff, you have a long history in media and entertainment – bringing considerable expertise from a sustained history of success. Thank you for sharing your insights with our audience.

A:  Actually, thank you for the opportunity to share about topics that I am very passionate about. It is one of my favorite things about being an educator.

Q: Increasingly media is going online with audio (podcasts), video (vlogging), interactive daily commentaries (web logs: blogs). What are your views about this trend? Should organizations start working in this direction to interact with their constituency?  What are the reasons?

A: I think that the answer to this is not a simple one.  I am fundamentally a “gadgets and technology” person, so all new uses of technology are intriguing to me. But if an organization chooses to integrate online technology into their businesses just because everyone else is doing it, it is very short-sighted. Each organization should evaluate the decision to adapt this technology using established marketing and business management principles, and choose the components that work for them. It is also important to do proper financial analyses to determine whether the cost of going online outweighs the benefits.

Q: Based upon the prior question, what sort of equipment would you recommend for podcasts and video? Can you be specific in your recommendations?

A: Once again, it depends a lot on the needs of that specific business or organization. For example, organizations who distribute live concerts or real-time newscasts that stream high resolution visuals need significantly higher-end equipment than radio stations that just disseminate verbal talk, which again is still more expensive than an organization that blogs using simple text-based sentences.

Q: You have been heavily involved in sound engineering and production. Can you describe your work in this area in more detail? What is the process for working on video games?

A:  I worked as a freelance sound mix engineer at Radical Entertainment, which is now owned by Universal Vivendi. They are one of the premier videogame developers in Vancouver, Canada. I had the pleasure of mixing music and sound for three major videogames – The Hulk, The Simpsons Hit and Run, and Dark Angel. I took sound elements from the sound design team and the composer and created sound mixes in 5.1 Surround – Dolby ProLogic II format to be exact. The process involves a lot of people all working together and it was a lot of fun working with many famous voices, particularly the voices of the various Simpsons characters.

Q: Speaking as a music producer and composer, how has technology affected your work and what trends do you see for the future? Also, can you talk more about your work in this area?

A: I’ve composed a lot of music for film and television, and have produced and engineered numerous commercial pop recordings. The biggest trend that I see is the accessibility of high quality audio production tools for very little money. For example, even my home computer can easily handle a session with 127 tracks playing at once. All of my processing tools are plug-ins inside the computer. When I finish the mix, I can digitally master it and burn CD’s from within the same computer. The computer is worth under $10,000. The same processing in 1980 would have required a recording studio with a huge mixing console and outboard gear, not to mention having to send the mastering out to a specialist who would then cut a master disc and then I would have to send it out for replication as vinyl records – involving about $2 million or more of equipment at least. I also have access to digitized samples that I use to replicate orchestral sections and choirs, thereby saving tens of thousands of dollars in session fees and players.

These digital advances make the process of creating good music so much more accessible and cost effective that it was 20 or 30 years ago. This will lead to a trend of more creators, more diversification and more choices for the music consumer. Budgets for each project will go down, but more people will be able to provide more services on a higher volume of smaller projects. I believe that as a result, creative businesses that succeed will either be really, really big or very niche market and small. Medium-sized creative business will struggle in today’s digital environment.

Q: Speaking as a lawyer and professor, what are the key legal challenges with new media? Perhaps you can also speak about the IP issue?

A: The obvious big issue is pirating and making illegal copies. However, mere prosecution is by no means the complete solution. In the long term, entertainment and media business education is vital to creating respect for Intellectual Property. Most people would recognize that someone breaking into my office to steal a computer is the illegal taking of property because a door has been broken and something physical has been removed. Because Intellectual Property is housed nowadays mostly in a digital realm, people do not psychologically equate that to the same type of illegal action as the break-in scenario. This is because of a fundamental difference between Intellectual and Personal Property – you can’t lock it away or hide it from the public if you expect IP to have value. I spend a lot of my time educating people in the understanding and appreciation of these differences so that they can appreciate and respect the inherent value of Intellectual Property rights. We can’t expect our children to respect Personal Property rights without educating them on not stealing their friends’ knapsacks in kindergarten; we can’t expect anyone to respect Intellectual Property rights without the same type of fundamental education. In fact, I find one of my biggest challenges is in educating professionals from different countries and cultures where there is virtually no clear understanding of how IP rights work!

Q: From your long history of legal consulting, can you provide three compelling case studies illustrating key points?

A:

Case 1: (case descriptions are from Wikipedia) Apple Computer, Inc. v. Microsoft Corp., 35 F.3d 1435 (1994) was a copyright infringement lawsuit in which Apple Computer sought to prevent Microsoft from using visual graphical user interface (GUI) elements that were similar to those in Apple's Lisa and Macintosh operating systems. Some critics claimed that Apple was really attempting to gain all intellectual property rights over the desktop metaphor for computer interfaces, and perhaps all GUIs, on personal computers. Apple lost virtually all claims in the lawsuit. Ultimately, the judge decided that most of the GUI elements were not copyrightable — either they were unoriginal to Apple, or they were the only possible way of expressing a particular idea. As it happened, the court's approach seemed to invalidate the copyrighting of a broad "look and feel" of a piece of software.

This case, among other things, confirmed for the digital community the long established rule that mere ideas cannot be protected at law, only the original expressions of those ideas; and perhaps more importantly, no one can stop others from new original expressions of established ideas. 

Case 2:  (case descriptions are from Wikipedia) From Wikipedia: Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U.S. 417 (1984), also known as the “Betamax case”, was a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States which ruled that the making of individual copies of complete television shows for purposes of time-shifting does not constitute copyright infringement, but is fair use. The Court also ruled that the manufacturers of home video recording devices, such as Betamax or other VCRs, cannot be liable for infringement. The case was a boon to the home video market as it created a legal safe haven for the technology, which also significantly benefited the entertainment industry through the sale of pre-recorded movies. The broader legal consequence of the Court's decision was its establishment of a general test for determining whether a device with copying or recording capabilities ran afoul of copyright law. This test has created some interpretative challenges to courts in applying the case to more recent file sharing technologies available for use on home computers and over the internet.

Case 3:  (case descriptions are from Wikipedia)The Napster Case   Napster was the first widely-used peer-to-peer music sharing service, and it made a major impact on how people, especially university students, used the Internet. Its technology allowed music fans to easily share MP3 format song files with each other, thus leading to the music industry's accusations of massive copyright violations. Although the original service was shut down by court order, it paved the way for decentralized P2P file-sharing programs, which have been much harder to control.

Q: Predict the future for media in general?

A: Wow, what a big question. My simple answer is that more people will be creating; therefore there will be a lot more content, and so each content creator’s audience will likely be smaller. There will be a lot less media products out there that will become universally famous or attract huge audiences, but there will be many smaller creators who will be happy that what they create will at least get out there and find a personal audience.

Q: Choose any topics of your choosing and provide commentary.

A: I want to take a moment to really emphasize how important education is to success in this new and ever evolving environment. There are so many legal and business traps out there that are peculiar to the Entertainment and Media Industries that relying on intuition or past experience in unrelated areas of expertise can actually become a liability. That is why I believe so much in teaching about Entertainment Business Management as a specialty.

Q: Jeff, we thank you for talking with us and sharing your valuable insights.

A: You’re very welcome.

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