Focus on IP Law: A Conversation with Tal Dickstein

In 2011, the Copyright Alliance launched a new Legal Advisory Board made up of 15 firms on the East and West coasts. The Legal Advisory Board (LAB) works with the Alliance and its membership to advance copyright strategy, and develop a variety of projects and programs, including providing pro bono assistance to the Alliance in its advocacy on behalf of individual artists, creators and innovators; hosting educational events and webinars; expanding work with law schools and young lawyers, and contributing writing and research, including for Idea/Expression.  Over the course of the year, we will be introducing our readers to some of the partners involved in the LAB in a series of posts on Idea/Expression.  Recently, Marla Grossman sat down with Tal Dickstein, Loeb & Loeb, NYC.

Marla: How would you describe your legal practice?

Tal: My practice focuses on representing artists, musicians and content owners in copyright litigation.  I also handle trademark litigation, internet domain name disputes, and false advertising claims.  I have also represented clients in a variety of litigation matters outside the IP context, including corporate governance, real estate and securities litigation.

Marla: When did you know you wanted to focus on IP law?

Tal: I went to college when Napster was in full swing and entire music libraries could be downloaded for free in a matter of minutes.  I knew that something wasn’t quite right about this windfall, but the “music was meant to be free” crowd seemed to be drowning out the “but it’s stealing” minority.  I didn’t think much about intellectual property law again until I had the opportunity to clerk for a federal district court Judge in lower Manhattan.  I worked on a trademark infringement case involving a commonly used household product.  The complaint recited the extensive marketing efforts and millions of dollars that had been spent increasing public awareness of the brand and playing whack-a-mole with infringers.  This got me thinking back to Napster (which by then had been replaced by Bittorrent and the like) and about how the law should fairly compensate artists for their creative efforts.  After my clerkship, I decided to join a firm with a strong IP litigation practice where I could help represent content creators and owners. I was fortunate to find that at Loeb.

Marla: What was the most unusual case you ever worked on?

Tal: I worked on a copyright infringement case that was essentially a dispute between two songwriters over who had written a popular song.  During the deposition of one of the songwriters, the other barged into the deposition room and tried to have it out with the other songwriter, mano-a-mano.  That was the first and only time I’ve had to call the police during a deposition.

Marla: As an attorney that specializes in IP, what is the one thing you wish more people understood about copyright?

Tal: I wish more people understood that copyright law exists to promote the creation of artistic works, not to stifle the free flow of ideas as some have suggested.

Marla: Do you have a secret (or not-so-secret) creative talent?

Tal: During high-school and college, I would have said playing the guitar.  But now I would have to say drafting briefs, especially the preliminary statement.  That’s one place where you can find creative ways to get your point across.

Marla: If you could excel in one creative field, what would it be?

Tal: Playing live music.  I once had the chance to accompany a client on stage during one of his concerts.  There nothing quite like looking out at thousands of screaming fans.

Marla: What was the last book/movie/concert you really enjoyed?

Tal: Zero Dark Thirty.  With a toddler at home and the demands of law practice, I don’t get to the movies very often.  But this one was worth it.  At the end, I wasn’t sure if I should have felt proud or embarrassed to be an American.  I feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth when I’m still thinking about a movie days later.

Marla: What was the first record you ever purchased?

Tal: I missed records by a few years, but the first CD I ever bought was Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever.  My dad was and still is a huge Bob Dylan fan, so the twangy vocals were familiar to me.

Marla: What type of job did you have you have before practiced law?

Tal: I’d have to go back to the summer before law school, when I was a waiter at TGIFridays.  I worked there just long enough to confirm my decision to go to law school.

Marla: What do you like best about working in this field?

Tal: Seeing how century-old concepts of copyright law are being applied and adapted to the digital age where seeming endless amounts of information can be transmitted around the world in a blink of an eye.

Marla: Why are you involved with the Copyright Alliance Legal Advisory Board?

Tal: It enables me to support creators’ rights to control and profit from their own creations, and hopefully I meet some interesting people that I can learn from in the process.