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Eric J. Schwartz

Partner Emeritus - washington, dc


Art reflects and nourishes the soul of civilization and since the beginning of mankind has been expressed through varied channels. Movies developed as one of those outlets and became a documentation of all aspects of society from the beginning of the 20th century. For the first hundred years, films were shot exclusively on what is essentially plastic, a fragile medium. To survive, it must be properly preserved and stored, a lesson learned, unfortunately, after more than half of this history was lost.

Long time movie director, Martin Scorsese, explains that “film is history. With every foot of film that is lost, we lose a link to our culture, to the world around us, to each other, and to ourselves.” Mr. Scorsese serves on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF), an organization dedicated to the preservation of this important art form through funding grants to archives and educational institutions. It also happens to be an organization that Eric Schwartz helped found in 1997 and is an active board member of today. After several years of analysis and study about rapidly deteriorating films, Congress acted to help fund the effort of NFPF with monies provided through the Library of Congress, and the ongoing work of the foundation has saved thousands of films in all 50 states.

Film preservation has been a passion of Eric’s for over 30 years, and he had a hand in helping with the formation of the National Film Preservation Board by the Library of Congress in 1988, a board of experts charged with initially studying and helping to address the problem of disappearing films. His work as pro bono counsel in proposing and guiding the 1993 study and the subsequent creation of NFPF has been among his greatest achievements. Tying nicely to his daily practice as a lawyer in the realm of copyright law, film archiving, and back cataloging, Eric enjoys sharing the story of two of the latest preservation successes of the NFPF’s, both unseen by the public until their restoration: a “lost” 1938 movie directed by and starring Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock’s first film long thought lost since 1924. Only recently, the last 10 years, has Eric also turned his attention to sound recording preservation efforts (also pro bono).


Legal Expertise

Eric Schwartz has over 35 years of experience as a copyright attorney counseling on U.S. and foreign copyright laws - including rights, ownership, licensing, exceptions, and enforcement issues – for emerging technological uses (e.g., social media and artificial intelligence), as well as “traditional media” in film and television, recorded sound, music publishing, book publishing, videogames, and business software. Eric has served as production counsel for numerous feature and documentary films and television programs (as well as provided fair use guidance). For several decades, he has counseled on copyright termination issues regarding the recapture and re-negotiation of rights in high-profile cases involving musical compositions, recordings, films, and works of the visual arts. Eric has served as an expert witness in numerous federal copyright cases, and as an appellate and trial litigation strategist, as well as assisting on Copyright Office registration and recordation practices. He is an expert on film and recorded music archival legal and preservation issues; his pro bono preservation work was featured in a 2011 Washington Post profile. He is an adjunct professor and frequent guest lecturer on copyright law and related subjects, including serving on the faculty of Georgetown University Law Center and American University Washington College of Law.

Representative Matters

  • Expert witness retained by Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) to opine on U.S. copyright issues and to comparative copyright law issues pertaining to performing rights organizations (PROs) in Canada and the United Kingdom, in a BMI “rate court” case against the North American Concert Promoters Association (NACPA) in the U.S. District Court for the South District of New York. The focus of the case was to set the rates that concert venues must pay BMI songwriters and music publishers for live music performances in the United States. In a March 2023 decision, the court awarded BMI a substantial rate increase, both retroactively and prospectively, after a decades-long dispute.
  • Chief negotiator and litigation counsel with MSK’s lead litigators Paul Montclare and Matt Williams, in a case involving the termination of copyright rights, and ultimately, the re-negotiation of rights for the Phillie Phanatic, the most celebrated mascot in sports. MSK represented Bonnie Richardson and Wayde Harrison, the original creators of the Phanatic. In 2018, on behalf of MSK’s clients, Eric served a termination notice on the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team, who had licensed rights in the Phanatic from Harrison/Erickson (in 1978); that commenced negotiations with the Phillies for a new license. In 2019, the Phillies sued MSK’s clients in the U.S. District Court for the South District of New York. In November 2021, that litigation settled in a confidential financial agreement and the re-licensing the rights to the Phillies by Harrison/Erickson.
  • Production counsel for “Iconic America: Our Symbols and Stories” a 2023 PBS nationwide broadcast eight-part series produced and narrated by David Rubenstein. Provided production counsel on copyright licensing and rights issues, including fair use analysis.
  • Chief production counsel for the multi-million dollar PBS series “Soundbreaking” – an eight hour documentary about the history of recorded music (the “legacy project” of legendary producer Sir George Martin).  The series aired nationwide in November 2016, and has also been broadcast in many territories abroad (U.K. etc.). In addition to serving as counsel, Eric received a producer credit (“Producer for Higher Ground”) for assistance with the production, including working with the writers and directors shaping the content of the series.  As counsel/producer, Eric negotiated and drafted talent agreements with over 200 recording industry luminaries such as Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, Tom Petty, Elton John, Smokey Robinson, among many others. Eric also, along with other MSK counsel, negotiated the archival agreements (over 150 in the series) for all moving images and photographic materials as well as music used in the series. Eric also worked with Jim Guerra and other MSK counsel on the production, financing and distribution agreements for the series.

  • Regularly provide production counsel and/or copyright counseling on documentary films, including for PBS as well as for numerous production companies. This includes assistance with licensing underlying rights and materials (film clips, photos, music/compositions), as well as fair use reviews for E&O insurance purposes.
  • For over two decades, Eric has counseled numerous clients on copyright termination (re-capture) and re-negotiation issues and negotiated complex use and re-use agreements of properties (for films, recorded music and musical compositions).
  • As former senior attorney and Acting General Counsel of the U.S. Copyright Office, Eric can advise and assist with copyright registration, recordation (recording assignments, mortgages etc.) and related matters with the Copyright Office.
  • Spent over two decades representing major studio and independent film companies in foreign markets, in Europe, Asia, Latin America and MENA etc.
  • Worked on archival (back catalog) film and music issues, including preservation of materials, for over three decades.
  • Previous counsel (for over two decades) to International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) – an alliance of the music, film, book publishing, and entertainment software industries -- on copyright licensing, market access and enforcement issues in territories throughout the world, including India, Mexico, Europe and Russia, as well as other major markets.
  • Assisted NBC Universal with 2016 Summer Olympics copyright matters relating to broadcast rights (including Copyright Office registrations); provided similar counseling for prior Olympics: the 2014 Winter Games, the 2012 Summer Olympics, the 2010 Winter Games, and the 2008 Summer Games.
  • Counsel Philip K. Dick Testamentary Trust on all copyright and transactional matters relating to Philip K. Dick literary properties ("Adjustment Team," "Minority Report" etc). 
  • Counsel to The Mayfield Family Trust on copyright and transactional matters relating to the Curtis Mayfield song catalog.
  • Assisted with numerous briefs in Supreme Court's Golan v. Holder case on the constitutionality of copyright restoration provisions.
  • Represent photographers and photographic licensing agencies on Copyright Office registration matters.
  • Production counsel for numerous long-form documentaries including: Martin Scorsese's "A Letter to Elia," the PBS broadcast six-hour series "Circus" and the PBS four-hour primetime series "Half the Sky" (both produced by Show of Force), and numerous public television-broadcast and theatrical releases.
  • Represented Universal Music Group in negotiations with the Library of Congress for UMG's donation of over 200,000 historic master recordings from 1928-1948 to the Library - the largest single donation of recordings ever received by the Library, preparing and negotiating the donor agreement, and working on all preservation and access issues.
  • Co-lead counsel providing strategic guidance and copyright due diligence for the purchase of the complete catalog of a major (top 3) music publisher.
  • Expert witness on U.S. and Canadian law in copyright arbitration dispute involving software licenses that resulted in over $100 million reward to client.
  • Provided full chain of title analysis for underlying story and screenplay adapted into a major motion picture released worldwide.
  • Provided copyright counseling for one of the first major record label agreements with the Apple iTunes Music store (for streaming, and computer and iPod downloads).
  • At the U.S. Copyright Office (1988-1994): served as a principal participant crafting copyright law amendments including: the Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988, the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, Copyright Renewal Act of 1992, and National Film Preservation Act of 1992 (and later, in 1996, 2005 and 2009 reauthorizations).  Also, served as principal (U.S. government) negotiator of the copyright provisions in: several bilateral agreements with Russia and over a dozen Central and Eastern European countries; the U.S., Canada and Mexico Free Trade Agreement (and NAFTA); and multilateral talks leading up to Berne accession, the World Trade Organization TRIPs Agreement, and in bilateral trade talks with China, Taiwan and Korea.

Honors & Awards

  • Named to Capital Pro Bono Honor Roll list with highest honor for 2022
  • "Outstanding IP Practitioner," World Intellectual Property Review Leaders Directory, 2023
  • “Top Trademark Star," Managing IP, 2020-2021
  • “Top Copyright Star," Managing IP, 2020-2021
  • Top Rated Intellectual Property Attorney in Washington, DC, Super Lawyers (2016-2022)
  • "Leading Media & Entertainment Lawyers in Washington, D.C.," Chambers USA (2013-2016)
  • Recognized by Best Lawyers in America© in the fields of:
    • Copyright Law (2011-2024)
      • "Lawyer of the Year" 2024
    • Litigation - Intellectual Property (2011-2023)

Professional, Business and civic Affiliations

  • Chair, Copyright Division of the ABA Section on Intellectual Property Law
  • President (2014-2016), Vice-President/President-Elect (2012-2014) and Executive Committee Member (2007-present), Copyright Society of the USA; Formerly Co-Chair of the DC Chapter (2007-2010) and Trustee (1997-1999)
  • Vice Chair, Committee on International Copyright Treaties & Laws of the ABA Section on Intellectual Property Law (2013-2017)
  • Founding Director and Vice Chair, National Film Preservation Foundation (1996-present)
  • Pro Bono Counsel, Library of Congress’ National Film Preservation Board (1988-present)
  • Library of Congress' National Recording Preservation Board (2003-present) 
  • Board Member, National Recording Preservation Foundation (2024-present)
  • DC Bar Association
  • American Bar Association, Copyright Reform Task Force
  • Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA)
  • The Recording Academy - DC Chapter
  • Lecturer, Copyright Law, George Eastman Museum Selznick School of Preservation (2001-Present)

Other Career Experience

  • Acting General Counsel, United States Copyright Office (1994)
  • Senior Legal and Policy Advisor, Register of Copyrights (1988–1994)
  • Staff Assistant and Assistant Counsel to the Committee on Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives for Hon. Joe Moakley (1979–1988)




Client Alerts

Events & Speaking Engagements



  • District of Columbia
  • New York
  • U.S. District Court
  •    Southern District of New York
  • U.S. Court of Appeals
  •    First Circuit
  •    Second Circuit
  •    Ninth Circuit
  •    District of Columbia Circuit
  • U.S. Supreme Court


American University, Washington College of Law, J.D., 1984

Johns Hopkins University, B.A., 1979

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