From Art to Intellectual Property Law

My path to law school began with art. You might think that sentence sounds illogical, maybe even a bit absurd. And the truth is, I too once believed the misconception that art and law have nothing in common. But the fact that you are reading this right now is proof that is not true. I’ve since discovered that not only are there art lawyers, but that the field of intellectual property (IP) law is essential to the arts. Let me explain…

Photo by Alice Dietrich on Unsplash.

From Artist to Arts Management

I’ve loved creating art since I can remember. As a kid I would spend hours painting or drawing portraits of my dolls, or crafting some paper-mâché monstrosity at the kitchen table. My knack for turning anything and everything into an art project has followed me my entire life. While in undergrad at Michigan State University I studied studio art, graphic design, and film and television production. And although I loved learning about and creating art, the idea of living as a “starving artist” didn’t really appeal to me. I knew I had more to learn, so the summer after my senior year I packed up and moved to Chicago to get my Master of Arts Management degree at Columbia College.

When I started my master’s degree, I was at a bit of a loss for what to do with my life. As someone who has always loved the challenge of learning something new and important, the thought of being a lawyer had crossed my mind over the years. I liked the idea of utilizing the law to learn about the complexities of the world around me. But, I felt I couldn’t pursue a law degree without giving up on my love of art. This all changed about a month into my first semester of my master’s degree program when a guest lecturer presented to one of my classes.

From Arts Management to IP

I was enrolled in a master’s course called Entrepreneurship and New Business Creation. Up until this point, I had not been particularly enticed by anything in the class. However, that all changed the week we were learning about the legal issues in the arts and entrepreneurship. As class started, our guest introduced himself and immediately began a long, rehearsed speech about what exactly he did. I was immediately intrigued when he informed us that he was a practicing music lawyer. This was a job I was unaware even existed until that very moment. He went on to explain more about his background as a musician-turned-lawyer who had transformed his passion for music into a business and was now using his law degree to represent bands in the Chicago area.

I was flooded with excitement and relief. Here, standing in front of me, was someone who had done what I thought was impossible. I listened eagerly as our guest explained copyrights, trademarks, and how IP can be an asset to both artists and business owners. Copyrights protect what are referred to as “original works,” such as literary works, musical compositions and recordings, movies, and works of visual art (i.e., paintings and sculptures). A trademark can be particularly valuable because it signifies the source of a product or service (such as Nike brand shoes, clothing, or athletic gear) and can exist in many forms such as a word, phrase, symbol, color, or even a particular smell. In his work, he managed the IP of various bands and musicians—such as merchandising of the artist’s various trademarks and negotiating music licensing and compensation agreements concerning the artist’s copyrights.

I was inspired to dive into my own research on IP law and quickly realized how instrumental IP law is to artists. After this, I began to reconsider all of the assumptions I had about being a lawyer. The realization that I could, in fact, work within the intersection of art and the law drew me to the decision to become an IP lawyer.

How IP Brought Me to Loyola

My determination to study IP was instrumental in my decision to attend Loyola University Chicago School of Law. While researching law school programs, I sought out schools with strong IP programs. Loyola quickly made its way to the top of my list. When I received my acceptance letter I put down my deposit without a second thought.

As I near the end of my first-year, I am more sure than ever that I made the right choice to study IP at Loyola. The opportunities to collaborate with students and faculty who are also interested in IP — both inside and outside of the classroom — have been the highlight of my law school experience thus far. I have had an incredible opportunity to learn about IP in my first-year — from the very first week of class through the IP legal writing course. Being able to explore topics of IP law early on in my legal education, in both required and elective courses, has made my first year of law school infinitely more enjoyable. And the best part is, I know I will not run out of opportunities to explore different areas of IP law over my next two years at Loyola.

Lydia Bayley
Assistant Blogger
Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2022