Boston University School of Law

April 15, 2011

BU Law alumni Catherine Gellis and Mitchell Stoltz team up
to represent college broadcasters pro bono

Catherine Gellis ('06)
Mitchell Stoltz (’06)

Catherine Gellis and Mitchell Stoltz, both J.D. (’06), teamed up to represent College Broadcasters, Inc. (CBI) before the Copyright Royalty Board to secure the adoption of a private agreement between CBI and SoundExchange as the rates and terms for the statutory license for webcasters. The agreement created a separate category of copyright regulations designed specifically for all non-commercial educational webcasters, which typically do not have as many resources as commercial stations.

The agreement also exempted many non-commercial educational webcasters from largely unfeasible labor-intensive recordkeeping requirements—a provision that Stoltz says “is vital.”

“[CBI’s] members are generally small, underfunded, student-run stations that need to be able to webcast affordably,” said Gellis.

The two-year proceeding was recently resolved in favor of CBI—after a long-drawn-out proceding—when the Copyright Royalty Board agreed to adopt the proposed measures. But then, before the final publication of the Board's determination to adopt the settlement, the Copyright Office had issued a challenge to the Board’s order, delaying any conclusive arrangement until this month.

“It turned out that this mission of getting the agreement adopted was easier said than done,” said Gellis. “There were a surprising number of hurdles, but in the end we were able to get our client what it needed.”

Gellis took on CBI at the recommendation of the association’s former pro bono lawyer, with whom Gellis had worked in San Francisco. Coincidentally, Stoltz— Gellis’s longtime friend and former classmate—was working as an associate at Constantine Cannon, the firm that had earlier served as local counsel for CBI and, moreover, shared Gellis’s interest in copyright law.

“Mitch was one of my closest friends in law school and we have always been interested in the same legal issues, so it made perfect sense to ask him to team up on this,” said Gellis, whose independent practice in Sausalito, Calif. focuses on the arena of cyberlaw.

“[We] share a passion for copyright law, especially for making sure that groups without a lot of resources have legal access to copyrighted materials,” Stoltz, who is still an attorney in the Washington, D.C. office of Constantine Cannon, added. “I was involved with student media throughout high school and college…I’ve seen firsthand the constraints that student broadcasters work under in terms of money and labor. Representing CBI is a way to give back to student media.”

Gellis also has a background in student media and was naturally drawn to the case.

“I do think it's important that college broadcasting [is] able to survive and able to exploit the potential of the Internet in doing so,” said Gellis. "As an undergraduate mass communications major I had worked in college radio and other student media, so it seems like a perfectly natural evolution to be able to help it out now that I'm a lawyer… My objective in becoming a lawyer in the first place was to develop the expertise and credential to weigh in on the public interest aspect of cyberlaw, and that's what efforts like the CBI representation are working toward.”

Reported by Alia Wong


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