Eskenazi: Legal eagle stands up to labels, studios

Women's Impact Report 2011: Bonnie Eskenazi

If you’re being stepped on or sparring for money with a big entertainment company — over Middle Earth, sci-fi special effects or reggae — you want Greenberg Glusker partner Bonnie Eskenazi in your corner.

Recently named California Entertainment Lawyer of the Year by San Francisco-based legal journal the Recorder, Eskenazi has built a powerful reputation defending copyrights and enforcing contracts, often for heirs of famous artists like J.R.R. Tolkein’s son and daughter. She won the Tolkiens a high-profile settlement from Warner Bros.’ New Line Cinema, producer of “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

She’s girding for one of her biggest battles yet in a New York courtroom this winter: her client, the estate of Bob Marley, vs. Universal Music Group over copyrights to master recordings. The Marleys claim UMG has withheld proceeds from digital downloads, cell phone ring tones and other royalties. The case could generate major ripples in the music biz and digital world.

One of the most important issues arising in entertainment today is the financial implications of digital delivery of film and music content,” Eskenazi says. “So who gets the benefit of that newfound windfall? The amount of money at stake is huge and is set to grow exponentially.”

Eskenazi also helped visual effects house Hydraulx when Sony threatened to sue the smaller company. Sony claimed Hydraulx had copied effects for its own low-budget alien pic “Skyline” from Sony’s “Battle: Los Angeles.” Sony withdrew the accusations in a public statement earlier this year.

One of her favorite new endeavors is a developing niche practice representing classical musicians. Itzhak Perlman has just become a client; others include Joshua Bell and Renee Fleming.

Title: Partner at Greenberg Glusker
Role model: “Bert Fields, who practices law with passion, dignity, fun and a huge amount of class.”
Career mantra: “Of course women can have it all — successful career, great family, interesting non-work activities. You just have to be a master at multi-tasking and give up sleeping for a few years.”
Leisure pursuits: Opera, musical theater, skiing.
Philanthropic passion: The Festival of New American Musicals. “We bring the arts to children who might not otherwise have access or exposure to music and theater due to the enormous budget cuts in our public schools.”