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Entertainment law paper sends Mitchell student to GRAMMY’s

When Mihajlo Babovic entered the Entertainment Law Initiative (ELI) Writing Competition last year, the second-year student at William Mitchell could only dream it would earn him a seat at the 2014 GRAMMY’s. He was dubbed one of five finalists for his paper on sustainability for noninteractive webcasts, winning a scholarship and an expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles, California.

Mihajlo Babovic (left) and Kenneth Abdo ’82 (right)

Drawing on his talent for writing and his interest in entertainment law, Babovic drafted his paper in December, working through winter break to complete the piece. He titled it “Last Call at the Oasis: Modifying the Noninteractive Webcast Royalty System to Support Sustainability.”

Babovic explained that in the realm of entertainment law, the words ‘noninteractive webcast’ are used to classify online radio streaming services, such as Pandora and Beats.

“I have never paid for a song in my life,” he wrote. “Internet users now expect access to any song that comes to mind, when it comes to mind—in some sense equivocating the concept of ownership to that of access.”

In the paper, Babovic went on to say that Internet radio is here to stay. He advocated for a fair compromise to be reached with copyright-holding recorders. Then he proposed a tiered system of royalty payments for noninteractive music services that would allow webcasters to grow while increasing royalty payments to artists.

The selection committee at the GRAMMY Foundation deemed the paper a success, and in January Babovic boarded a plane to California to partake in four days of GRAMMY Week. He presented his paper at the ELI Luncheon and Scholarship Presentation, one of the most prestigious events held during the week, and he heard from scores of musicians and keynote speaker Robert Kyncl, head of content and business operations at YouTube. Then on Sunday, Jan. 26, he took his seat at the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards.

“It was pretty cool,” said Babovic. “It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.”

ELI Executive Chair Ron Wilcox (third from right) and ELI Writing Competition finalists Mihajlo Babovic, Sam Guthrie, James Richardson, Matt Borden, and Eric Lauritsen attend the 16th Annual Entertainment Law Initiative Luncheon & Scholarship Presentation on Jan. 24 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

ELI Executive Chair Ron Wilcox (third from right) and finalists Mihajlo Babovic, Sam Guthrie, James Richardson, Matt Borden, and Eric Lauritsen attend the 16th Annual Entertainment Law Initiative Luncheon & Scholarship Presentation in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Babovic also had a chance to network with music industry executives, getting exposure at the premier event that brings together thousands of recording industry professionals from across the world. During GRAMMY Week, he was also introduced to Ken Abdo, a 1982 graduate of William Mitchell who serves as the executive committee program chair for the GRAMMY’s Entertainment Law Initiative and music industry attorney at Lommen, Abdo, Cole, King & Stageberg, P.A.

Established by the GRAMMY Foundation in 1998 to build the connection between the legal profession and the recording community, the Entertainment Law Initiative seeks to address legal issues confronting the music industry. The 16th Annual ELI Writing Competition is co-sponsored by the American Bar Association.