UHLC's Olivas embarks on fifth season of 'The Law of Rock and Roll'

Michael A. Olivas, the William B. Bates Distinguished Chair in Law at the University of Houston Law Center and Director of the Institute for Higher Education Law and Governance, shares his pop culture expertise.

Michael A. Olivas, the William B. Bates Distinguished Chair in Law at the University of Houston Law Center and Director of the Institute for Higher Education Law and Governance, shares his pop culture expertise.

March 8, 2018 — University of Houston Law Center Professor Michael A. Olivas provided faculty and staff a backstage pass to the upcoming season of "The Law of Rock and Roll" radio program last week in the Hendricks Heritage Room.

Olivas, a lifelong fan of popular music, hosts the radio program where he takes on the trademarked role of the "Rock and Roll Law Professor" and reviews legal developments in music and entertainment law. The show is in its fifth year and will include 12 episodes.

Olivas touched on a variety of trademark issues in music, including the 2017 Supreme Court case involving the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and a band named The Slants. The band's leader and spokesperson, Simon Tam, trademarked the name to re-appropriate the language and to reconstitute it as a form of affirmative pride.

"The most important musical trademark was the courageous claim to use a band name, The Slants, a derogatory name for Asians, by the Asian-American band," Olivas said. "Federal law had a provision, imperfectly and unevenly applied over the years, prohibiting the registration of trademarks that may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute any persons living or dead.

"At the end of a long and winding legal battle, the U.S. Supreme Court determined unanimously that this disparagement clause was unconstitutional under the First Amendment's free speech clause."

In the wake of violent white supremacist demonstrations of August 2017 in Charlottesville, Va., one of Olivas' courses, "Hate Music and Tiki Torches" centered on hate music. He said that Spotify and other streaming music platforms have begun to limit free and easy access to music by neo-Nazi groups.

"In 2014, the Southern Poverty Law Center published and advertised a list of white supremacist hate bands and began a campaign to pressure iTunes into banning such groups from podcasts, music sales of all kinds and downloadable access to such music," he said. "As bad as these songs are, doing so presents a number of legal questions ranging from Constitutional hate speech to the seemingly self-evident identification issues."

Other topics discussed included his segment, "The Law and RockDocs" which Olivas said combined his love of music and film. He also covered "Terrorism and Concerts" and the security measures taken after the November 2015 attacks in Paris where terrorists stormed the Bataclan theatre and the 2017 bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

The rest of Olivas' fifth-season "set list" includes episodes on the Law and Business of David Bowie, canceling concerts, Taylor Swift in and out of court, law and musical auctions, immigration and the travel ban, album cover art and the law, and other topics.

The five-minute segment is played at 10 a.m. Fridays on the Albuquerque, N.M., National Public Radio station KANW. It is also available locally on Houston Public Media's News 88.7 at 7 p.m. on Saturdays.

Click here to learn more about "The Law of Rock and Roll."

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