Suffolk University Law School Student Stephen Wilson Wins First Prize in Prominent Legal Writing Competition


Although he isn’t scheduled to graduate from Suffolk University Law School until May, Stephen Wilson is already making a name for himself.

The North End native recently received first prize in the Boston Patent Law Association’s annual legal writing competition.

“I couldn’t believe it when I received the congratulary phone call,” said the 36-year-old Wilson, who accepted his award of $750 during a luncheon ceremony at the Seaport Hotel in Boston. “I was pleasantly surprised.”

His winning article, titled “Rewarding Creativity – Transformative Use in the Jazz Idiom,” also came in second place in the Nathan Burke competition sponsored by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), and was one of four finalists for the Robert C. Watson competition sponsored by the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA).

Wilson originally submitted his article as an assignment in his Advanced Copyright Seminar class at Suffolk Law. His professor, Jerry Cohen, was impressed and suggested that Wilson enter his work in the highly acclaimed Boston Patent Law Association’s legal writing competition.

“Stephen was competing with students from many other prestigious law schools throughout New England,” said Cohen, who is an adjunct professor at Suffolk Law and a partner with Perkins, Smith & Cohen, LLP in Boston. “He turned in a good paper and I’m very pleased that he won. Stephen is an enthusiastic individual who has a bright future as a lawyer.”

“Rewarding Creativity – Transformative Use in the Jazz Idiom,” is a detailed and informative, 70-page piece focusing on copyright protection. Speaking in abstract terms, Wilson says that to attain statutory copyright protection, the threshold requirement is to create an original work of authorship affixed in a tangible medium.

“For example, children may satisfy this requirement by drawing a picture on a doodle pad,” explained Wilson. “Some of the greatest musicians in the world, however, do not receive copyright protection because they musically re-interpret an existing copyrighted song. This unfairness persists even if the musician adds a significant original expression.”

Wilson’s article suggests a way to reconcile this inherent unfairness by asserting that the new work is sufficiently transformative. “Our courts usually analyze transformative use as a component of the first fair use factors,” said Wilson. “My article suggests, pursuant to the Court of Appeals holding in Sun Trust, that jazz musicians could effectively assert transformative use to escape copyright infringement, possibly escape paying the compulsory license fee, and may actually receive a copyright for their re-interpreted work.”

For Wilson, bringing together law and music form a perfect combination. A 1984 graduate of Pope John XXIII High School in Everett, he began playing the piano at 16 and owned a successful recording studio for 10 years before deciding to enter college. He received his undergraduate degree in legal studies from UMass-Boston in 1998, and his master’s degree in criminal justice from UMass-Lowell one year later.

This past semester, Wilson, who eventually wants to practice intellectual property law, earned all A’s as a full-time, day student. He has already secured a one-year position as a clerk in Massachusetts Superior Court, a job he will begin upon graduation. His wife, Amy, works for the Massachusetts Department of Correction and his brother, Charles (better known as Chuckie), is a sergeant with the Boston Police Department.

The son of Charles and Elaine (Iennaco) Wilson, Stephen has fond memories of growing up in the North End. His mother, who founded the North End Community Health Center and the North End Community Nursing Home, has been a popular figure in town for many years.
“She can’t walk down a street in the North End without being stopped by somebody she knows,” said Stephen Wilson.

Making a name for one’s self seems to run in the family.

For more information, please contact:
Tony Ferullo at 617-573-8448

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