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.
Matthew Williams’ practice focuses primarily on civil litigation in federal courts with an emphasis on disputes relating to entertainment, intellectual property, and technology law. He has extensive experience defending film, music and publishing industry clients against copyright infringement and implied-in-fact contract claims. Mr. Williams also has litigated numerous cases for copyright owner plaintiffs.
A significant portion of Mr. Williams’ practice also includes representation of clients in administrative and regulatory proceedings relating to copyright and communications policy and in transactional matters involving online consumer contracts, such as privacy policies and terms of service.
- Filed friend of the court briefs on behalf of trade associations, performing rights organizations, and/or non-profits in numerous important copyright cases, including: Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corporation v. Wall-Street.com (U.S. Supreme Court); American Broad. Cos. v. Aereo (U.S. Supreme Court and 2nd Circuit); Cartoon Network v. CSC Holdings (i.e., "Cablevision") (U.S. Supreme Court and 2nd Circuit); UMG Recordings v. Kurbanov (4th Circuit); Capitol Records v. ReDigi (2nd Circuit); Viacom v. YouTube (2nd Circuit); Fox Television Stations v. FilmOn X/Aereokiller (DC Circuit and 9th Circuit); Vernor v. Autodesk (9th Circuit); MDY Industries v. Blizzard Entertainment (9th Circuit); Flava Works v. Gunter (7th Circuit); Righthaven v. Hoehn (9th Circuit); Authors Guild v. Google (2nd Circuit); and Oracle v. Google (Fed. Circuit).
- Represented the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, the Association of American Publishers, and the Entertainment Software Association for over a decade in triennial Copyright Office rule-making proceedings regarding regulatory exemptions to an anti-circumvention provision of Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Mr. Williams also represented these trade associations 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”.
- 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.
Professional, Business and civic Affiliations
- Former Co-Chair, DC Chapter of Copyright Society of the USA
- Member, Recording Academy
Other Career Experience
- Practitioner-in-Residence, American University Washington College of Law (2010-2011).
Courses taught: International and Comparative Copyright Law; Intellectual Property Seminar.
- PhillyVoice, NBC Sports Philadelphia, ESPN, Philadelphia Business Journal, Law360, Bloomberg Law, USA Today, February 25, 2020
- The Hollywood Reporter, February 19, 2020
- March 2019
- January 8, 2019
- July 6, 2017
- May 31, 2017
- Christine Lepera, Jeffrey Movit and Matthew Williams Mentioned in Multiple Publications for MSJ Win for DrakeMay 31, 2017
- August 2015
- July 2015
- July 15, 2015
- April 15, 2015
- November 19, 2013
- September 27, 2012
- April 27, 2012
- December 6, 2011
- May 11, 2010
- Mr. Williams has published law review articles in respected periodicals, including Berkeley Journal of Law and Technology, UCLA Entertainment Law Review, and Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal.
- He has also published articles in National Law Journal, Los Angeles Lawyer, Network Computing, Intellectual Property and Technology Law Journal, Cinema Journal, Landslide, and M/E Insights.
Events & Speaking Engagements
- 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.