The Copyright Community’s Tribute to Jay Rosenthal

Jay Rosenthal

On Saturday, November 2, 2019, our friend and colleague Jay Rosenthal passed away. Jay was a partner at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP in Washington D.C. Prior to that role, he served as General Counsel for the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) and started his copyright career as an examiner with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Jay was a real champion for the copyright community, especially in the area of his first love – music. He was a great advocate for songwriters and music publishers. Over the years, Jay touched so many lives. Below are just a few testimonials from some of us in the copyright community who collectively mourn Jay’s passing and celebrate his life.

We were so sorry to hear of the passing of Jay Rosenthal.ÊWhile many know Jay from his later roles, he was also an examiner with the Copyright Office early in his career, beginning in 1985. Through that work, he helped us contribute to the copyright system and was a valuable member of our team. From his tenure at the Office and later on, members of the Copyright Office fondly recall Jay’s dedication and cheerful personality. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. – Karyn Temple, Register of Copyrights and Director of the U.S. Copyright Office

The music publishing and songwriting industry lost a true friend and champion today. Jay Rosenthal dedicated his professional life to fighting for the rights of creators. As NMPA General Counsel, Jay was instrumental in protecting the copyrights of all songwriters and publishers. As my friend, I have never met a man more kind, gentle, and patient. Everyone loved Jay. He always had a smile and a positive outlook. He was a dedicated husband, father, and law professor. We will miss him dearly. – David Israelite, President and CEO, National Music Publishers’ Association

Jay was the type of person who made the world a better place, whether you were talking to him about copyright law or anything else. I had the pleasure of knowing him and calling him a friend for over two decades. You could always count on him for a smile, a supportive laugh, or an understanding nod. He was an unflagging champion of creators, and always followed his conscience to do the right thing. The world won’t be quite the same without his infectious personality, but our memories of the great times with him will help carry us through. Rest in peace, Jay.              – Michael J. Huppe, President & CEO, SoundExchange

Jay was that rare individual who was simultaneously a big picture thinker and an expert on legal minutiae. Going back more than 20 years, I would consult with him on all matters of music and copyright, large and small. Jay was in the thick of the fight for creators in so many capacities: advising the Recording Artists Coalition, working with NMPA, helping to guide WAMA and so much more. But there was always a special spark in Jay’s eyes when he was working directly with creators, from Mary Chapin Carpenter to Dave Bautista. Performers, visual artists and actors all valued Jay’s counsel. Jay’s passing is a major loss for our community, and we will all miss him. – Daryl P. Friedman, Chief Industry, Government & Member Relations Officer, Recording Academy

Jay was a fierce defender of artists’ rights and copyright in general. He had an exhaustive understanding of the latest issues that he was always willing to share and debate. He was a great friend to me in many different capacities over the years. I already miss him. – Dr. Richard James Burgess, President and CEO, A2IM

I worked with Jay Rosenthal in different incarnations over many years. The common thread was he was ALWAYS fighting for the creator, be it a songwriter or an artist. He was smart, genuine and passionate. He was a go-to person when I needed to understand the law or the politics of an issue. Jay will be missed and always loved. – Bart Herbison, Executive Director, Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI)

Jay, when I had just opened my law firm in 2001, you encouraged me. You taught me so much about copyright, the CRB, consent decrees, and how to write a comment paper. Back then, I was a small-time lawyer but you treated me like I was the most important attorney in the country. I started teaching at UCLA because you told me it would further my credibility and I would learn much easier and quicker if I taught the material I was trying to master! You flew in to speak to my class during the first several years. I ended up teaching that class for 18 years! We have traveled multiple places together and have been on multiple panels together, from SXSW in Austin to MIDEM in Cannes, France and many others in between. You even brought Evan with us on some of our trips! You came to our wedding in 2008 and you met my children. I loved you so very much and I already feel empty without you in my life – Dina LaPolt, attorney, LaPolt Law

The copyright community lost one of its greatest champions. From the day I met him many years ago, I have been impressed with Jay’s fearless and dedicated advocacy for creators’ rights. He zealously represented his clients, while, as a true gentleman, always embodied the ethic of the consummate professional. As I often say, a large part of why I chose to work in this industry is because of the people – Jay was definitely one of those people. He will be missed. – Sam Mosenkis, VP, Legal Affairs, ASCAP

I wasn’t involved in music issues very much until I started my present position at the Copyright Alliance. It was here that I first got to meet Jay four years ago. We worked closely on numerous copyright issues and spent time sharing life stories in between. He was such a tremendous advocate for songwriters, music publishers and indie labels, among others. And he was always so supportive of the work we do here at the Copyright Alliance, which was very appreciated. There are people you meet in life that come and go without having much impact. Jay was NOT one of those people. He was so full of life, so knowledgeable, so thoughtful and so helpful. I will miss his enthusiasm and wonderful stories and all the help he provided me and my team at the Copyright Alliance. – Keith Kupferschmid, CEO, Copyright Alliance

Jay was one of the very first people I got to know when I entered the copyright policy space. He was, as others have said, incredibly generous with his time and knowledge, even to a wet behind the ears young lawyer from rural PA like me. Some of the artists and creators he represented are household names, but he made you feel like your time was just as valuable as theirs. On top of that, he was an incredibly smart and savvy lawyer. Most of all, his support for artists and artists’ rights was unwavering and unimpeachable. That kind of passion is inspiring. You will be missed, Jay.   Terry Hart, VP Legal Policy & Copyright Counsel, Copyright Alliance

I’ve known Jay for over 20 years, since before I became formally involved in the music industry. In fact, Jay probably never knew this but, in the context of a free music law tutorial he once gave me, I was able to successfully represent a long-time musician client of his, which representation ended up being the springboard into my own career in music law. Since joining the RIAA in 2000, Jay and I have worked on numerous projects both together and from opposite sides of the table. No matter which side of the table he was on, he was always kind, pleasant, smart, creative and fair. I happened to be working on a matter with him right around the time he was diagnosed. We were planning the agenda for an annual meeting of record label and music publishing clearance executives. Despite looming brain surgery and assurances from me that he didn’t have to worry about the meeting, he was insistent that he was going to dial into the meeting unless he was in surgery or recovering from surgery on the day of the meeting. In many respects, I think that sums up who he was – a consummate professional who was devoted to his clients and the industry until the very end. Rest in peace, Jay.Susan Chertkof, Senior Vice President, Legal and Regulatory Affairs, RIAA

The loss of Jay is a profound blow to all of us for whom Jay was a unique, constant and always friendly fixture of the music scene in Washington. Everyone loved Jay. It didn’t matter whether you were working with him or against him, you loved him. And what a font of wisdom! Real wisdom, because Jay worked not just in the ethereal echelons of the music industry, but also in the streets, representing real artists and real performers, boosting their art and their egos and their dreams. He was a bridge, between the DC music policy mavens and the on-the-ground real-world musicians. He knew both, he lived both, he loved both. For Jay, music policy issues were personal, because he saw the day-to-day impact of the esoteric laws and regulations the rest of debated more in the abstract. It was that, plus his outsized personality, that made Jay so authentic, so real, so sought after as a friend and colleague. He is going to be sorely missed. – Cary Sherman, former Chairman and CEO, RIAA

Jay believed that copyright was a human right. As a musician himself, he saw the relationship between the work he did, the art he loved, and the benefits to the public. As an advocate, he excelled in infecting others with that same passion. The Progress of Science moves more slowly because of his passing. – Christopher A. Mohr, VP for Intellectual Property and General Counsel, Software & Information Industry Association

We are devastated to have lost one of our most dedicated yet unsung heroes. It is in his honor, thanks to an incredibly generous and gracious gesture by the Rosenthal family, that we have created The SONA Jay Rosenthal Songwriter Action Fund. Your contribution will help songwriters continue to fight for what Jay always fought for: for protection, for fairness, for a voice. Thank you for helping us honor him in this way. – Michelle Lewis, Executive Director, SONA

I first came to know Jay as my Entertainment Law professor at GW, and I always looked forward to the anecdotes he would share with us about his time working in the music business. When our paths crossed again after law school, he insisted I drop the Professor Rosenthal routine and treated me like a genuine colleague. His expertise, kindness, and overall presence will be greatly missed. – Kevin Madigan, Deputy Director, CPIP

Jay leaves behind an enormous legacy in the copyright and entertainment communities, and one corner of that legacy is filled with his contributions to the George Washington University Law School. We were grateful and proud to have Jay teaching Entertainment Law and Advanced Entertainment Law at GW Law for over 10 years, and he was teaching here right up until the middle of this semester, a few weeks before his death.. He provided a generation of students with his deep knowledge of the entertainment industries, and he was also always willing to share that knowledge by participating in a variety of extracurricular events. One of my many positive memories of Jay concerns the story behind the photograph I took of him and Sean Glover of SoundExchange at Decades DC last March, which I enclose below. Jay had been kind enough to volunteer to serve on a panel that I was moderating for the Washington Area Music Awards. As always, he was happy to share his knowledge with the many musicians who showed up for the awards conference. At the end of the panel, he noticed that the photograph on the wall was of Sean Combs and Jay-Z, two of the most influential names in rap and in music generally, both as performers and as entrepreneurs. “Sean and Jay,” Jay said, “and we have another Sean and Jay right here. Let’s get a photo of Sean and Jay and Sean and Jay.” So, Sean and Jay sat below Sean and Jay, and I got out my phone, and the result is [shared] below. There is Jay, microphone in hand, tickled by the coincidence and happy to be contributing to the community of which he was so valuable a member. May his memory be a blessing.- Robert Brauneis, Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Intellectual Property Program, The George Washington University Law School

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Jay was not only a fierce advocate and a creative and resourceful legal problem solver, he was also warm, welcoming, and a terrific storyteller. We will all miss him greatly. – Steve Metalitz, Partner, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP

When I started MusicTechPolicy in 2006, Jay Rosenthal was one of the first people in Washington policy circles who embraced me. This says much more about him than it does about me. He didn’t need to be particularly courteous to me or even acknowledge I existed. But he was a kind person, genuinely interested in mentoring and he extended me encouragement and courtesy in the finest tradition of the legal profession. As they say, damn few. We were on many, many panels over the years and I always enjoyed his deep knowledge and generous nature as did everyone in our line of work. In the few instances when we were opposite, he always proved himself to be a man whose word was his bond — better than a contract or leverage. – Jay demonstrated that the importance of courtesy and honesty cannot be emphasized enough to all lawyers, new and old. – He was living proof that great authority can be wielded with great humility and that those who do so gain great admiration and respect from those with whom they deal. – Christian L. Castle, Editor, MusicTechPolicy

A great human being and a kind, forthright and charitable man first and foremost. – And [he was] also a great leader and legal thinker. – Jay was not only a lion of the copyright and entertainment law bar, he was a champion for the underdog and a patient and thoughtful teacher to students and younger lawyers alike. His good nature endeared him to his colleagues and his adversaries. He was always ready with a smile and a bear hug. The copyright policy world will not be the same without him. Peace and rest my friend. –  Sandra Aistars, Clinical Professor, Scalia Law, George Mason University; Senior Scholar and Director Copyright Research & Policy, Center for the Protection of IP

I was very blessed to be one of Jay’s law partners since he joined MSK. He had a great passion for music — both as a lawyer and a musician. I had the luck of experiencing both of his sets of chops. – I never thought I would love wrestling stories — but Jay was a storyteller who made you laugh. I will really miss him. – Christine Lepera, Partner MSK

Every time I had a conversation with Jay I laughed and learned something (usually in that order) about life and practicing law, and how to enjoy both – Matthew Williams, Partner, MSK

Jay was such a mainstay and titan in the copyright community that I cannot believe he is gone. – He was always there – to help solve a legal problem or just to hang out. – His work on behalf of creators was the stuff of legends.  Interacting with Jay was always insightful, fun, and educational. He will be missed greatly. – Mike Klipper, Partner, Law Office of Michael R. Klipper, PLLC

Jay was a friend, colleague, and all-around great guy. His knowledge of the law and the business of making music was top-notch. Jay and I both taught at GW law and we would run into each other from time to time. He always had fun story or proud achievement for a client to tell. I can’t believe he’s gone. He was taken from us far too soon and I feel his loss keenly. – Steven Tepp, GW Law, The Federalist Society

My sincerest condolences to the Rosenthal family. Jay’s wit and expertise will be missed by the music industry and copyright community. – Tegan Kossowicz, VP Business & Legal Affairs, Royalties & Copyright,ÊUniversal Music Group

I had the pleasure of knowing Jay first as one of the hundreds of the students he taught at the George Washington University Law School, and then as a professional colleague, eventually teaching alongside him at the same law school. Whatever my position relative to his, Jay was unfailingly kind and generous with his time and expertise. Jay wasn’t just a great lawyer and policy person, he was a great teacher too, and his students are now all over the nation and world, using the knowledge he gave us freely to represent creators. – Zvi Rosen, GW Law LLM ’06, Visiting Scholar & Professorial Lecturer in Law, GW Law

I first met Jay around 2005 or 2006 at roundtable discussions in Washington, D.C. when he was working for NMPA and I was National Advocacy Liaison for the Graphic Artists Guild. I’m not an attorney, and representing creators on the Hill in meetings like those was a new experience and overwhelming for me. Jay was immediately welcoming and interested in the particular concerns of illustrators and graphic artists, and he encouraged me to not be shy and speak up. He generously gave his time to me in conversations over the years, explaining the workings of copyright law and registration issues with the Copyright Office. I learned so much from him just in little conversations. He had hilarious stories about his days as a music application examiner at the Copyright Office. Sometimes, we would schmooze and trade stories about who was nuttier: artists or musicians? My favorite was Jay’s story about a guy who tried to claim authorship of a Beatles song and had sent in a 45 RPM record of the song with Lennon & McCartney’s name crossed out with a Sharpie marker and the applicant’s name written in! – Lisa F. Shaftel, Graphic Artists Guild National Advocacy Liaison 2004-2016, Shaftel & Schmelzer

Jay was fun, funny, profane and passionate. His passion for authors, creators and producers was genuine and deep-rooted. He could very persuasively advocate for laws to protect creators, but equally important for him, he loved what copyright law promoted and produced – great musical recordings, well-crafted songs and films, and the like. His stories of music and musical clients kept us entertained always, and in manners both very funny and very profane.But, the stories masked the great depth of knowledge he held about both the law and the business of music and film. And, he loved underdogs – those artists or entertainers who beat long odds to be successful. Jay reveled in touting their successes, especially if they were clients and friends (many were both), and in helping them sustain their successes. That was his true passion. I feel fortunate to have known him for several decades, and am especially proud to have helped recruit and entice him to join MSK, so my colleagues in the firm could enjoy being with and around Jay, even if he has left us much too soon. – Eric J. Schwartz, Partner, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp

Jay is survived by his wife, Rae, and children Evan and Shira. A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, November 5 at 1 p.m. at B’nai Shalom of Olney, 18401 Burtfield Rd., Olney, MD. Memorial contributions can be made to the Songwriters of North America, which has created the SONA Jay Rosenthal Songwriter Action Fund to help songwriters continue to fight for what Jay always fought for – “protection, fairness, and a voice.”

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