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Matthew Williams

Partner, through his Professional Corporation; Executive Director and Legal Counsel to the Coalition for Online Accountability - washington, dc


When you walk in to Matt Williams’s office, you’ll be surrounded by large paintings by local Washington, DC artists, contemporary furniture and minimal clutter (usually). Matt’s approach to designing his office space was similar to his approach to legal practice – stay organized to open up space for creativity to shine. Matt also sees this as one of the primary jobs of a lawyer who often represents clients in cases and matters involving intellectual property infringement, protection, and ownership. If the attorney does the job well and prevents legal issues and disputes from generating unnecessary distractions and expenses, the clients have more time and resources to continue to entertain, to educate, to innovate, to succeed in business, and to express themselves. Helping clients achieve those goals is one reason why Matt chose copyright law as his primary practice area.


Legal Expertise

Matthew Williams serves as the Executive Director and Legal Counsel to the Coalition for Online Accountability (COA), a group of companies, trade associations, and copyright member organizations dedicated to enhancing and strengthening online transparency and accountability. COA advocates within ICANN and to governmental policymakers that domain name and IP address WHOIS databases remain publicly accessible, accurate, and reliable as key tools against online infringement of copyright, as well as to combat trademark infringement, cybersquatting, phishing, and other fraudulent or criminal acts online.  This work includes focusing on privacy issues, including those arising from the E.U. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the E.U.’s recently adopted Network and Information Security Directive (NIS2). 

Matt also specializes in issues concerning the DMCA, especially with respect to the Copyright Act’s Chapter 12 prohibitions against circumvention of technological protections measures and trafficking in tools and services that enable circumvention.  For nearly two decades, he has represented the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, the Entertainment Software Association, and other clients in triennial Copyright Office rule-making proceedings regarding regulatory exemptions to the circumvention prohibition.  Matt was very involved during Copyright Office processes resulting in the transmission to Congress of the 2017 “Report of the Register of Copyrights on Section 12 of Title 17”.

Another significant part of Matt’s practice includes preparing and submitting amicus/amici curiae briefs in federal courts, from the U.S. Supreme Court to numerous U.S. Courts of Appeals and U.S. District Courts.  Some cases of importance include the Supreme Court cases Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts v. Goldsmith, Oracle v. Google, Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corporation v.; Allen v. Cooper, American Broad. Cos. v. Aereo, and at the cert stage, Cable News Network v. CSC Holdings (i.e. Cablevision) and Authors Guild v. Google.

Civil litigation—usually in federal courts—with an emphasis on disputes relating to the entertainment industry, applications of the Copyright Act or the Lanham Act, technology law, or the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act, is key to Matt’s practice.  He has extensive experience representing media clients against copyright infringement and implied-in-fact contract claims (including multiple cases about blockbuster motion pictures). He also has litigated numerous cases for copyright owner plaintiffs, including those involving large scale infringement.

Finally, Matt enjoys pursuing ideas and arguments in law review articles and other publications.  For example, he has been published in Berkeley Journal of Law and Technology, UCLA Entertainment Law Review, Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal, Virginia Sports and Entertainment Law Journal, and North Carolina Journal of Law and Technology. In 2010-2011 Matt was a Practitioner-in-Residence at the American University Washington College of Law, where he taught International and Comparative Copyright Law and an Intellectual Property Seminar focused on litigating IP cases and other IP policy issues. During law school, Matt served on the Editorial Board of the American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy and the Law.  

Representative Matters

  • Prevailed at trial in a Southern District of New York tortious interference of contract case for a music publisher against a rival publisher that caused a songwriter to breach a covenant not to sue by claiming copyright ownership of songs recorded by the rap group “Run-DMC.” Court awarded the client over $1.3 million in damages.
  • Obtained summary judgment in the District of Maryland for defendants, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and director James Cameron, in a copyright case filed by a screenwriter who claimed that the multi-billion dollar grossing film Avatar infringed his scripts. Court awarded the defendants over $1.2 million in attorneys’ fees. Mr. Williams also successfully defended claims involving Avatar in the Central District of California and the Southern District of California.
  • Obtained $353 million judgment for over one hundred plaintiffs in a Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act case against the Republic of Iran in the District Court for the District of Columbia, for liability for acts of state sponsored terrorism.
  • Obtained dismissal with prejudice of multiple copyright infringement claims in the Southern District of New York filed by photographers against music industry news websites.
  • Obtained summary judgment for hip-hop artist “Drake” based on fair use defense in a Southern District of New York case involving an allegedly infringing “sample” from a jazz album.
  • Successfully represented filmmakers and authors in a Southern District of New York trademark dispute concerning the PBS documentary series Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.
  • Represented plaintiff songwriters in the Central District of California against foreign companies for use of an alleged adaptation of a hit song in an advertising campaign.
  • Obtained dismissal of copyright infringement claims in the Central District of California against Sony Pictures Entertainment and Amblin Entertainment in a case involving the movie Men in Black 3.
  • Obtained summary judgment based on an implied license defense for a health insurance industry client in a copyright action in the Eastern District of Virginia involving allegations of infringement of software code.
  • Represented hip hop artist in a right of publicity and Lanham Act case against a music publisher and management company in the Southern District of New York.
  • Successfully moved to dismiss an Eastern District of New York right of privacy case filed against director Morgan Spurlock on First Amendment grounds relating to the use of the plaintiff’s likeness in the documentary film Supersize Me.
  • Defeated a motion to dismiss and counterclaims in a Central District of California antitrust case of first impression regarding markets in defensive registrations for internet domain names and the creation of new top-level domains (TLDs), resulting in a favorable settlement.
  • Obtained pre-discovery summary judgment for Universal City Studios and director Ang Lee in the District Court for the District of Columbia in a copyright infringement case targeting the film Brokeback Mountain.  Court awarded the defendants attorneys’ fees.
  • Successfully defended an online music streaming service against copyright infringement claims filed in the Eastern District of New York by a music publisher. 
  • Successfully moved to dismiss copyright infringement claims against Sony Pictures Entertainment and director Roland Emmerich in a case concerning the movie Anonymous.
  • Represented counter-plaintiff record labels in a complex copyright infringement case in the Middle District of Florida against multi-level marketing companies, In re Record Company Infringement Litigation.

Honors & Awards

  • "Top Music Lawyers," Billboard (2023)
  • "Outstanding IP Practitioner," World Intellectual Property Review Leaders Directory, 2023

Professional, Business and civic Affiliations

  • Executive Director, Coalition for Online Accountability
  • ICANN Intellectual Property Constituency, Participation Coordinator
  • Former Co-Chair, DC Chapter of Copyright Society of the USA
  • Member, Recording Academy





  • District of Columbia
  • New York
  • U.S. District Court
  •    District of Columbia
  •    District of Maryland
  •    Eastern District of New York
  •    Southern District of New York
  • U.S. Court of Appeals
  •    Second Circuit
  •    Fourth Circuit
  •    Seventh Circuit
  •    Ninth Circuit
  •    District of Columbia Circuit
  •    Federal Circuit
  • U.S. Supreme Court


American University, Washington College of Law, J.D.; Order of the Coif; magna cum laude

Guilford College, B.A.

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