June 12, 2014 -- With the ease and obvious enjoyment of an artist riffing on his Stratocaster, Professor Michael A. Olivas blends the history of rock and roll with the rule of law in his three-minute radio program, “The Law of Rock and Roll,” now in production for its second season this fall on an NPR station.
The “Rock and Roll Law Professor,” whose regular day job is teaching and directing the Institute of Higher Education Law & Governance at the University of Houston Law Center, took to the airwaves in January as an outlet for his encyclopedic knowledge and lifelong love of rock and roll. The program currently airs only on KANW, 89.1 FM, in Albuquerque, NM, but Olivas hopes it will eventually be picked up by other NPR stations and college town outlets. He has been approached by a number of radio directors, but is in the final stages of developing a site license for them to play his show.
“Making these decisions has given me a new personal understanding of the various legal means of protecting intellectual property and the forms of protection that new artists require for their product,” he said.
“This program allows me to combine my two passions, the law that I have taught and practiced for many years, and rock and roll, which has been my hobby for most of my life. In addition, entertainment law is endlessly fascinating, and a major cultural feature of U.S. life.
“It also has been very gratifying to have friends and family in New Mexico hear me on the radio, a new skill I have had to develop,” he said of his Friday morning drive-time broadcast slot.
The shows, which the professor calls “classes,” open and close with “Legal Matters” by the Who with a lively description of case law dealing with specific artists or music-related issues sandwiched in between. Subjects range from copyright infringement, production, performance, and marketing contracts to the estates of dead artists, just to name a few. The legal information is interspersed with tidbits of rock legend and lore and backed by musical snippets.
Two of Olivas’ favorites from the first season concerned how local ordinances try to regulate loud residential music (especially since he and his wife moved into a Loft-style apartment on campus), and how the law of backup singers has evolved to reward the women who sing anonymously behind many of the great groups.
Olivas is currently recording a new series of broadcasts, including one concerning the many legal cases involving Elvis Presley ( “The Law of Elvis”), and another featuring immigration such as the attempt by the United States to deport John Lennon (which the former Beatle won). Olivas also is developing a spinoff website and planning entertainment-themed Continuing Legal Education courses for lawyer groups.