I am a product of the late 1960s and early 1970s, a time when the music of the Great American Songbook had been thoroughly eclipsed by rock and roll, and the prospects for its long term survival as a popular art form were a matter of some doubt. I discovered this music through the old movies that were daily staples of New York’s seven broadcast television stations – the Warner Brothers and MGM musicals, Astaire & Rogers, the Marx Brothers, and all those god-awful biopics. Ever since, I have been hooked not only on the music and the movies of the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, but also on the plucky, insouciant attitude that seemed to be integral to America’s national DNA in the years between the world wars.
Throughout my career as an intellectual property lawyer, I have been fascinated by the interplay between law and popular culture, and I have had the good fortune to be involved in many cases that allowed me to observe it up close and in real time. With my first book, Unfair to Genius (2012), I was able to combine my enthusiasms in telling the story of an infamous music industry outsider, Ira B. Arnstein, who spent the better part of 30 years trying to prove that the Great American Songbook was plagiarized from him. I found that careful research into the legal history of popular culture yields fresh and unexpected insights into even the most well-documented lives and subjects, and a more adult and clear-eyed view of events that are romanticized and sanitized in most received accounts.
It is impossible, in fact, to understand the ascendancy of American popular culture without understanding corresponding developments in the law. Fortunately, I have found, gaining and sharing that understanding can be tremendous fun. Of the plaudits my first book received, my favorite was that “there’s fun to be found in Unfair to Genius as it leavens legal history with showbiz anecdote, and insight with amusement.” I hope readers of Adventures of a Jazz Age Lawyer will say the same.
Bryn Mawr, PA
Gary A. Rosen has litigated copyright, patent, and other intellectual property cases for more than 30 years. He holds a degree in physics from Haverford College and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School. Before entering private practice, he served as a law clerk to federal appellate judge and award-winning legal historian A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. He has been a Lecturer in Legal Studies at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School and an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Drexel University School of Law. Gary and his wife Lisa, a physician, live outside Philadelphia with their rescue dogs Sacha and Duncan.