Prince: Please introduce yourself to my audience and tell us what you do?
MF: My name is Mark Fischer and I am partner at the law firm of Duane Morris LLP. I teach advance Copyright at Suffolk University Law School and I co-authored a treatise on a publishing book called, “Pearle, Williams and Fischer on Publishing Law.” Today, I have a blog and most of my clients tend to be extremely creative and innovative–they are often in media and entertainment [To state the obvious, technology and media/entertainment are now intertwining]. And as such, a lot of my clients are in technology and media content–some are just in technology. So that’s where I tend to be now.
Prince: So why did you become a lawyer? Did you wake up one day and say that you wanted to be one? Or was it a long decision-making process?
MF: Well after I graduated from college (Emerson College), I worked in Publishing Law; I was the youngest proofreader and copyeditor for Little Brown and Houghton Mifflin [I actually started in High School]. At first I immediately did not know what I was going to do; so I worked in publishing for a while. However, it was not until later that I discovered that the law was a great way in which I could combine a number of interests—Literature, Art, and Mostly Music—into a career. And so, I decided to attend Boston College Law School and earn my Juris Doctorate (JD) degree.
Prince: Please tell us more about the type of law you practice–What is Copyright Law?
MF: Well, Copyright Law began in the Constitution of the United States of America–in Article 1 Section 8 [It essentially gave the authorization for a copyright and/or a patent law to exist, which is very important]. What “copyright” does in the American system is it provides incentives for authors (whether it be musicians, dancers, filmmakers, software programmers, or writers) to produce a work product while protecting their creativity–they can charge a fee for their creativity and still be professional. And so, “What is Copyright Law?” is essentially a way of protecting the works of creativity.
Today, we clearly lost a lot of protection–and we have discouraged incentives for authors and creators. If copyright-works were free, and you didn’t have to pay for them, then the creators (particularly musicians, writers, photographers, etc.) would not be able to be full-time creators—you just cannot pay the rent on free content! You might be able to make a meaningful impact in the world as an artist, but free content is not going to create incentives for creativity. So, we have lost our way with it–but not completely! We have great creativity, but the rules have changed.
At best “copyright” allows creators to focus on creativity and not have to become accountants; hairdressers; cab drivers; or even astronauts. It allows professionalism. Since the rise of popular culture in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, it was no coincidence that we had stronger copyright protection.
Prince: So, do you love the work that you are doing now? And tell me about the clients that you have represented?
MF: Well on some days, I enjoy it quite a bit (smiling). And as far as my clients, I am not very big on “name dropping.” But, I have worked with and represented very well-known musicians, artists, and writers; I am very privileged to be part of their lives.
Prince: Is there a personal story that you would like to share with my audience that has inspired you to become a lawyer?
MF: Well I wish I could say that there was a Batman moment in my life, which Bruce Wayne lost his parents to injustice and then caused him to have a remarkable fictional life. However, that is not the case. I did not have anything too dramatic in my life that I wanted to be a lawyer. I think it was just my desire to combine my passion for the Arts with what I do now.
So again, no epiphany or dramatic moment in my life that gave me reason to become a lawyer–just a belief that the law would serve as a great platform for my endeavors. So you can say that it was a slow process for me–and not a bolt of lightning.
Prince: Are you satisfied of where you are today? Or was there anything that you could done differently in the past?
MF: Well those are really two good questions for anybody, isn’t it? Especially, for someone who has done this for 30 years! (smiling) Of course, I would love to say that I haven’t made a mistake. But I have learned from my mistakes, which in return has given me better judgment—and this applies to everything in life. So yeah, there were times I wish I hadn’t led a client into a bad deal, or fought harder to stop that client from signing a bad deal.
In this business you have to fight very [very] hard on what your client needs are—you are there to achieve their goals. As soon as the client is objectively making a mistake, it is the attorney’s job to talk him or her out of it. If I had any regrets, then it would be not pushing my clients hard enough to do what I think was clearly right.
I have always regretted when someone gets into a situation that isn’t as good as it could be. But, there are always limitations like costs. Clients will not tolerate their lawyers spending huge bills to get perfection [and they shouldn’t] but unfortunately you have to because of limited resources–and everybody has them nowadays. So you have to get the best with what you have.
Again, I wish I could have fought harder for stronger deals, but I am fortunate to say that the good things have wildly outnumbered the bad things. (Smiling)
Prince: Is there any misconceptions about the law including your field of expertise (Copyright Law) that you wish to clarify with my audience?
MF: Yes! We definitely had two decades of academics saying that “copyright” is a bad thing–and that is just wrong! Basically, we have had academics say: “The ‘Big Bad’ record companies are ripping everybody off. And so there should not be copyright protection for musicians and record companies.” But, if you know the old saying that “two wrongs don’t make a right,” then whatever the record companies have done in past does not justify the erosion of copyright protection–it provides incentives for creativity.
If you pay for your ISP (Internet Service Provider), computer, iPhone, or Android, and you don’t pay for the content that you are listening to then you are telling the world that everything else is valuable, except for the work of creativity. Therefore, the writers are not valuable and the musicians as well—but the work processing software is or that bobble head doll, etc. So, the proposition that the actual music and/or the actual content is not worth it, is an outrageous one! It is not good for creativity, when we are not respecting the people behind it.
Prince: What advice would you give to aspiring lawyers who are looking to apply for Law School?
MF: Well, the profession has changed: there is a divide between mega law firms and small boutique firms–and certainly the way lawyers charge their legal services [There was a time when legal budgets were much bigger!]. Certainly, there are fewer jobs, but the free fall of layoffs and pink slips seems to have slowed down a great deal. The older lawyers are hanging on to their jobs, so they are not opening slots for younger attorneys. But, that will change very soon because it has been deferred.
The practice of law has experienced tough economic challenges, which are unprecedented; so, it’s harder to get your dream job. I almost always have a Northeastern University Co-Op Law Student with me as an apprentice and I really see how challenging the job market is. My advice used to be: “Follow your dreams very strictly and you get what you want.” But my advice today is, “To get the best training you can, and then work your way to what you want more slowly.”
So my advice to law schools students and aspiring lawyers out there is that being a lawyer is still a great profession, but only if you can combine your personal interests with your law degree and have that passion transcend in your work with the people who you are lucky to represent. However, it will take longer than it used to be.
Prince: (Personal Question) Have you seen the USA TV Show, “Suits”? And if you have, does it accurately portray the real life profession of the law?
Prince: In your own words, what makes Mark Fischer, so interesting?
MF: Well, what a sweet question that is–and a difficult one I might add. (Smiling) Ideally, I have an enormous love and passion for what I do. I am really fortunate that so many of my friends are my clients; it’s a great feeling when those two worlds intersect a great deal. Plus, I am so fortunate that I get to travel and experience what my clients do.
I represent clients who are really creative. And if I am truly that interesting, then it would be the fact that my aspirations are to be just as great in my line of work as they are in their music, writing, software engineering, synthetic biology, etc.
If you wish to contact Mr. Mark Fischer, go to: http://www.duanemorris.com/attorneys/markafischer.html
You can follow and read his blogs at http://blogs.duanemorris.com/duanemorris/tags/mark_fischer
And follow him on Linkedin.com