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Private Rights and Public Broadcasting: Panel 1

In partnership with:
With support from: Lowell Institute
Date and time
Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Robert Lippincott, Senior Vice President of Education for PBS, Steve Altman, Senior Vice President of Business Affairs for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and Jay Fialkov, Deputy General Counsel for WGBH, talk about issues for the digital age from the perspective of Public Broadcasting. For many years, Congress has recognized the important educational mission and the limited resources of public broadcasters, and the Copyright Act of 1976 included several specific provisions designed for their benefit. The business culture that developed around rights and distribution grew out of a broadcast-based system for public television and radio. Today, in the evolving digital environment, PBS, NPR, the stations, and other producers and distributors of public television and radio programming are working to embrace new production and distribution models beyond traditional broadcast. They must now aim to act more broadly as 'public service media' in order to further their mission and meet the changing needs of our audience. At the same time, public broadcasters are running up against a legal and business environment that has not kept pace with digital transformations. The provisions in copyright law that were intended to benefit public broadcasting have limited application to new technology and media formats; business systems that were formulated in the pre-digital era can create confusion, slow down or prevent new kinds of distribution, and have enormous cost implications. These issues challenge public broadcasters in our efforts to produce and distribute both new content and older archived materials for the public benefit. This conference brings together public broadcasting leaders with representatives of copyright organizations, talent unions, music rights holders, archives, and other key stakeholders for two days of discussions on balancing private rights and public interests in the ever-changing landscape of digital convergence. Its goals are to survey existing copyright laws and business practices; to educate its participants about the issues that affect public broadcasters' work in a multi-platform world; to hear and understand more fully the perspectives of union and rights holders; and to look for 'next steps' that public broadcasting, unions, and rights holders can take together.

Steven J. Altman oversees all of CPB's transactions, including one-of-a-kind negotiations, while working to bring a broader view of business concerns and risks company-wide. Altman has been with CPB since 1996, when he joined the company as associate general counsel for contracts. Promoted to assistant general counsel in 1999, Altman has been responsible for most of CPB's one-of-a-kind agreements, including negotiation of both broadcast and Internet music rights licenses for public broadcasting; joint CPB/PBS projects; satellite interconnection agreements; and major funding agreements such as the National Program Service. Altman has also been CPB's primary advisor on intellectual property and entertainment law issues. Before joining CPB, Altman was vice president and associate general counsel, Riggs/D.C. (1988-95) and vice president and general counsel for Riggs/MD and Riggs/VA (1990-95). He structured, drafted and negotiated contracts, and advised on advertising and intellectual property matters. Altman began his career in private practice, first with Steptoe & Johnson and then with Mayer, Brown & Platt. Altman graduated from the National Law Center at George Washington University in 1983. He was a member of the Law Review and received the Order of Coif. He is a 1979 graduate of Emory University in Atlanta.
Jay Fialkov holds a JD from Boston University School of Law. He is deputy general counsel and an executive producer at WGBH. Fialkov is president of WGBH's music publishing companies: WGBH Music and Great Blue Hills Music. He is former entertainment lawyer in private practice whose clients included Phish, Maurice Starr (manager and producer of New Kids on the Block), George Thorogood, Mark Wahlberg, the estate of famed bluesman Robert Johnson, Rick Danko of the Band, Homestead Records, Rounder Records, and Rykodisc. He is founder and co-owner of the Giant/Rockville record labels, which released albums by rock group Uncle Tupelo, whose offshoots include Wilco and Son Volt.
Host of NPR and WBUR’s On Point, award-winning journalist Tom Ashbrook first came to NPR and WBUR-Boston for special coverage of the 9/11 attack,. Tom’s career in journalism spans twenty years as a foreign correspondent, newspaper editor, and author. He spent ten years in Asia — based in India, Hong Kong, and Japan — starting at the South China Morning Post, then as a correspondent for The Boston Globe. He began his reporting career covering the refugee exodus from Vietnam and the post-Mao opening of China, and has covered turmoil and shifting cultural and economic trends in the United States and around the world, from Somalia and Rwanda to Russia and the Balkans. At the Globe, where he served as deputy managing editor until 1996, he directed coverage of the first Gulf War and the end of the Cold War. Tom received the Livingston Prize for National Reporting, and was a 1996 fellow at Harvard’s Nieman Foundation before taking a four-year plunge into Internet entrepreneurship, chronicled in his book The Leap: A Memoir of Love and Madness in the Internet Gold Rush.