Phil Nostrand ’11 & Community Law Clinic Help Noted Musician Reclaim Song Rights
Foster left Rutgers the following year and in another three years Nostrand graduated and began a 20-year career in the Air Force. Three decades later, Nostrand and the Community Law Clinic at Rutgers School of Law–Newark have helped Foster begin the process of terminating the copyright with the music publisher holding the rights to “Shiny Stockings.” The composer of one of the Count Basie band’s most famous tunes may finally benefit from the royalties to the song that he wrote for the Basie band in 1955.
|Clinical Professor John Kettle (left) with clinic student David Zimmerman ’10 and Phil Nostrand.|
Today Foster, a stroke victim no longer able to play the saxophone, and his wife Cecilia struggle to get by on income from his earlier published compositions and earnings as an arranger. That situation should soon change, however, now that Nostrand and a group of Community Law Clinic students supervised by Clinical Professor John Kettle, who directs the CLC’s intellectual property and entertainment law work, have helped Foster to exercise his rights as spelled out in the Copyright Act of 1976 to reclaim the rights to the song.
The story of how Foster became a clinic client and was reunited with a long-ago student begins with Brian Grady, producer of the upcoming documentary film about Foster titled Shiny Stockings. As part of his research, Grady learned from a friend in the music industry of the Copyright Act and its little-known provision that could help Foster finally earn significant revenue from his music. Another friend, Rutgers Business School professor Wayne Eastman, knew of Professor Kettle and the IP expertise of the Community Law Clinic and contacted the clinical program about taking on the Foster case. Making the project an even better fit were the research resources of the Rutgers–Newark Institute of Jazz Studies, the world’s largest archive of jazz and jazz-related materials. The clinic took the case and Nostrand, as an independent study project supervised by Kettle, worked with clinical students on the research.
|Notice of Termination signed by Frank Foster|
The story of how Phil Nostrand became a Rutgers Law School student involves a few more years and many other locations than the semester devoted to the Foster case. With a B.S. in meteorology, he began his first Air Force assignment in Sunnyvale, CA as a “weather officer,” responsible for advising mission control centers of the effects of solar activities in satellites. “This was nothing like the terrestrial meteorology I’d learned in college and I was fascinated by it,” he says.
His initial intention to fulfill his four-year commitment and then return to civilian life changed when he was accepted into a new Air Force master’s degree program in space operations designed to groom junior officers to manage shuttle operations. After getting his degree from the program, which was taught at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH, Nostrand was assigned to the Johnson Control Center in Houston. “I was very excited to be involved in shuttle activities,” he reports, “and then, after the Challenger disaster, I participated in an extremely thorough analysis of weather’s effects on shuttle operations.”
A window just opening up for copyrights licensed or transferred after January 1, 1978 may provide possibilities for the Community Law Clinic to help other musicians.
Nostrand’s military career continued to advance as he moved to new, ever more interesting assignments at the Palehua Solar Observatory in Hawaii, the Air Weather Service headquarters in Illinois, and the National Reconnaissance Office in Virginia. Along the way he received an M.P.A. from Auburn University at Montgomery. Retiring from the Air Force in 2001, Nostrand first held a management position with a government contractor, and since then has worked as a paralegal and taught LSAT and SAT preparation courses. He entered law school with an interest in two areas of law that would allow him to apply some of his scientific/technical background: environmental and intellectual property. “I’m finding the IP field to be more diverse and interesting than I originally thought,” Nostrand reports. Referring to the Foster case, he says: “I’m particularly drawn to this chance to help older musicians, or their families, take advantage of the legal opportunity to recapture the rights to their work, since it’s bringing me back to my love of jazz.”
Years in the military, assignments all around the county, and the accompanying experiences of buying and selling property and being a tenant and a landlord, including in nationally-registered historic districts, have made Nostrand knowledgeable about some of the issues covered in classes like Property, Contracts, and Federal Income Tax. Corporate takeover cases discussed in Business Associations are more familiar to an older student than to younger classmates. Those perspectives, however, have not made the experience of studying the law full-time while juggling jobs and chairing the Architectural Review Committee of his condominium association much easier. “My wife,” he says, “has been an absolute angel in dealing with my ups and downs, the late nights and early mornings. I can’t describe how much I appreciate and depend on her support, particularly because I know what a strain it has been on her good humor.”
|Frank and Cecelia Foster with Brian Grady of Jazz Legacy Films
While Nostrand’s focus was primarily on “Shiny Stockings,” he was able to identify four other works that were held by the same publisher and registered at the same time. Those compositions were included in the termination notice and their rights will also return to Foster and his family. “The work isn’t done, though,” says Nostrand, who is trying to determine who currently owns the rights to several other tunes Foster recorded with his Basie band mate, Frank Wess, around the same time.
Nostrand points out that while the Rutgers Law School efforts have focused on the termination opportunities for works that are 56 years old, the Copyright Act of 1976 also established a recapture opportunity after only 35 years for copyrights licensed or transferred after January 1, 1978. “Well, that window is just opening up,” he observes, “which may provide possibilities for the Community Law Clinic to assist more musicians.”