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Gurwin Finds Niche in Entertainment Law

June 7, 2012 | Alumni

David Gurwin ’85 is the chair of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, PC’s entertainment and media law and technology and transactions groups, an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University, a guest lecturer at several colleges across the Midwest, the president of the Hampton Township School District in Allison Park, Penn., and a professional jazz pianist.

Gurwin extends his practice toward entertainment, media and sports, emerging technology, life sciences, and pharmaceuticals. His greatest passion however, lies in of entertainment law.

Based on his musical background, Gurwin said he has always wanted to work in media and entertainment. First performing as a professional jazz pianist, Gurwin used his musical talents to pay for a higher education. He graduated summa cum laude in 1982 from The Ohio State University with a degree in business administration and accounting, then from the Moritz College of Law in 1985, Order of the Coif.

During his summer breaks from law school, Gurwin made his way to Los Angeles where he clerked at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

“I gained a hands-on understanding of the entertainment industry while I worked there, especially when I was assigned to the Century City office, which is considered the business hub of the entertainment industry,” Gurwin said.

Gibson & Dunn’s Century City office is located approximately 10 miles west of downtown L.A., between Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, in a major commercial and financial area that is home to many entertainment and media companies. Firm clients have included some of the largest film studios, television networks, game publishers, print publishers, theme park companies, music companies, and internet-based multimedia businesses in the world.

After earning his J.D., Gurwin began his career in Columbus, and practiced for 12 years in Ohio before relocating to Pittsburgh in 1997.

“You can really practice anywhere geographically, representing clients outside of where you work and live. When I figured out that I could pursue media and entertainment law away from the West Coast, I refocused my career to Columbus, then to Pittsburgh,” Gurwin said.

He has since represented clients ranging from musicians, record companies, recording artists, and record producers to advertising agencies, authors, television personalities, broadcasters, playwrights, actors, motion picture production companies, video game developers, professional athletes, and sports organizations, among others.

Gurwin assists clients with contractual drafting and negotiations, business formation, licensing and intellectual property matters involving the protection and commercialization of entertainment talents, works, and persona.

Gurwin said one of the more memorable cases of his career involved Grammy-winner Nancy Wilson.

“My client, MCG Jazz, is a part of Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, whose mission is to educate and inspire urban youth through the arts. In particular, MCG Jazz’s mission is to preserve, present, and promote jazz. Its performances strengthen the long time Pittsburgh jazz community and contribute to the overall cultural and artistic diversity of the region,” Gurwin said.

“Through its live recordings, it reaches a national and international audience. Many well-known jazz artists have come to know the Guild and MCG Jazz and appreciate what they are doing. As a result, several have been willing to record there and do so for no artist royalties.”

Gurwin said he negotiated deals with Nancy Wilson, The Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars, and Paquito D’Rivera. He also said Nancy Wilson’s first CD, “Nancy Wilson: R.S.V.P.,” was recorded at MCG Jazz and it became the guild’s first Grammy winner.

In addition to representing MCG Jazz, Gurwin credited the emerging industry of video games for his success in Pittsburgh. He said the growth of the industry is due in part to the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at Carnegie Mellon University, where he has taught at for 10 years and is now an adjunct professor.

Gurwin lectures on the subjects of the law and business of the video game industry at ETC in addition to teaching a course on law and arts at CMU’s Heinz College in the master of arts management program.

“It is one of the leading graduate programs for interactive entertainment and one of the first, if not the first, of its kind in the country,” he said.

The ETC is a department at the university focused on bridging the gap between the arts and technology. The ETC offers a Master of Entertainment Technology degree, jointly conferred by the College of Fine Arts and the School of Computer Science.

Between teaching and chairing the entertainment and media law group at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, Gurwin also serves as the firm’s chair of the technology transactions group, which represents companies and individuals with commercial transactions involving technology-related issues.

In the technology arena, Gurwin represents clients in a variety of industries including Internet, e-commerce, software and information technology, biomedical, consumer products, manufacturing, insurance, advertising and retail industries in connection with licensing and other business transactions involving the sale, acquisition and commercial development of software, biotechnology, and other technology assets.

Gurwin is also a member of the firm’s venture capital and emerging companies group, where he also practices in the areas of copyright, trademark, and intellectual property law.

As an active member of several professional organizations, Gurwin is a frequent guest lecturer at University Pittsburgh Katz School of Business, Ohio State, La Roche College, and Duquesne University, where he teaches on the subjects of Internet, e-commerce and computer law, intellectual property law, and entertainment law.

More so advancing his service to education, Gurwin is the school director and board president of the Hampton Township School District, which is the highest performing district in the Common Wealth of Pennsylvania.

Gurwin’s efforts have granted him several awards. He was named by Intellectual Asset Magazine to the IAM Licensing 250 in 2011, which recognizes the top patent and technology licensing attorneys in the world he has earned an AV® Preeminent certification from Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings, the highest available mark for professional excellence.

At the bedrock of his successful career, Gurwin credits Moritz for the legal training he obtained, but emphasized there is no better teacher than experience itself.

“While a broad legal education is the basis for my practice, of particular value were the courses I took on copyright law, trademark and unfair competition law, labor law and, of course, contract law,” Gurwin said. “As with most areas of the legal practice, however, my greatest ‘teacher’ over the years has been working in this area of law and gaining knowledge of the business of the entertainment industry.”

Gurwin added, “Law school really does train you how to think…That is the real lesson here. Learning specific laws in place 30 years ago was far less important than learning how to analyze and think through a situation from a legal and business standpoint.

“My business background also helped there. The point is that in these areas of practice the law is constantly changing to keep pace with changes in technology and business and if you are going to practice in these areas you need to stay on top of things.”

While at Moritz, Gurwin was an article editor on law review, a member of Phi Alpha Delta, and also helped produce and perform in the law school talent shows, but performing at the law school wasn’t his favorite venue.

Gurwin said his most memorable performance was at the Mellon Jazz Festival, an annual jazz festival held in Pittsburgh.

“In 2001, I played with the Pittsburgh Jazz All-Stars which included Joe Negri, Roger Humphries, Dwayne Dolphin and several other of Pittsburgh’s world-class musicians.”

By Callie Broomfield