Howard University

Civil Rights Leader Rev. Jesse Jackson Headlines Intellectual Property Conference

Civil Rights Leader Rev. Jesse Jackson Headlines Intellectual Property Conference

On May 17, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., Founder and President of Rainbow PUSH and Democratic candidate for president in 1984 and 1988, gave the opening address at the IIPSJ and Civil Rights Conference.

Jackson discussed the exploitation of Black athletes and artists, and their intellectual property. “African Americans have come from picking cotton balls to picking footballs and basketballs,” said Rev. Jackson. “For four hundred years, the only constant is the exploitation of Black labor,” he said. “Today, a college athlete’s most valuable asset is his or her fame and notoriety, which the law considers to be his or her intellectual property.

But long after the athlete is no longer able to compete, this intellectual property can generate revenues from product endorsements or royalties from video games, DVDs, and sports paraphernalia.”

Conference director and Howard Law School Professor Lateef Mtima agreed with Rev. Jackson’s assessment and said the playing field must be leveled to effect change, and particularly when it comes to collegiate sports. “The time has come to restore fairness and human dignity on behalf of young athletes who lack the means to protect themselves,” he said. “What is needed is a more balanced approach to academic vigor, health and safety of athletes, preparation for life beyond the playing fields, and enormous television contracts from which universities profit.”

Other presenters at the conference were Gary Flowers, executive director and CEO of the Black Leadership Forum; Professor Llewellyn Joseph Gibbons, professor and scholar on intellectual property and antitrust; K.J. Greene, professor of law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and one of the top ten intellectual property attorneys in San Diego; Roger M. Groves, professor of law at Florida Coastal School of Law who teaches in the fields of business, federal taxation, and emerging issues in the business of sports; Rita Heimes, director of the Center for Law & Innovation at the University of Maine School of Law; and Lita Rosario, attorney with WYZ Girl Entertainment Consulting who has represented Missy Elliot, Crystal Waters, and Peaches & Herb, among others.

They all agreed that protecting the intellectual property rights of athletes, artists, entertainers, authors, and particularly those in the African American and other marginalized communities, is an issue of critical importance that must be addressed.


Institute of Intellectual Property and Social Justice

updated: May 29, 2012