Popular Music and Copyright Law in the Age of the Songwriter

About the Author

I am a product of the late 1960s and early 1970s, a time when the music of the Age of the Songwriter had been thoroughly eclipsed by rock and roll, and the prospects for its long term survival as a popular art form were a matter of some doubt. I discovered this music through the old movies that were daily staples of New York’s seven television stations – the Warner Brothers and MGM musicals, Astaire & Rogers, the Marx Brothers, and all those god-awful biopics. An impulse purchase of the 1972 two-record set “Bobby Short Loves Cole Porter,” when I was in the eighth grade, hooked me for life.

Throughout my career as an intellectual property lawyer, I have been fascinated by the interplay between law and popular culture, and I have had the good fortune to be involved in many cases that allowed me to observe the process up close and in real time. It was while working on a dispute between a small music publisher and major record label many years ago that I first came across the case of Ira B. Arnstein versus Cole Porter, which led me in turn to the cases of Ira B. Arnstein versus Edward B. Marks Music Corp., versus ASCAP, versus Warner Brothers, versus Twentieth-Century Fox, and versus Broadcast Music, Inc. Whoever this Arnstein character was, he had seemingly taken on every important element of the popular music business at the time of its greatest glory. The idea for Unfair to Genius, a narrative history of popular music and copyright law during the Age of the Songwriter, told through the misadventures of one of the losers the music business had left behind, occurred to me in a flash.

Gary A. Rosen (grosen@logarpc.com)
Philadelphia, PA
May 2012

Gary A. Rosen has litigated copyright, patent, and other intellectual property cases for more than 25 years. He holds a degree in physics from Haverford College and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School. Before entering private practice, he served as a law clerk to federal appellate judge and award-winning legal historian A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. He and his wife Lisa, a physician, and their two children live outside Philadelphia.