Interview with Darius Gambino, PVLA's Volunteer of the Year

After some tweetage back and forth, the PVLA,  Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, sent us the name of one Darius Gambino, this year's PVLA Volunteer of the Year.

Darius Gambino, PVLA's Volunteer of the Year  

Darius Gambino, PVLA's Volunteer of the Year


We caught up with Darius over the weekend with questions about his interest in respresenting artists and what keeps him motivated in doing so:

Question 1: Part 1 - Were or are you an artist yourself outside of practicing law? Part 2 - Based on your answer for part 1, how did you decide to become a volunteer lawyer for the arts?

I’ve played the guitar (and some drums) since law school. I wouldn’t consider myself an ‘artist,’ but I love it nonetheless. I’m into the arts in general, especially movies, plays, painting and print art. Of all the arts, music is definitely my passion – my tastes run the gamut of music, and I am always trying to listen to new things. My friends and I write a blog called “The Discordants” where we talk about music, although I haven’t contributed as much recently as I would like. I’m also a member of The Recording Academy (the group that puts on The Grammys), which helps keep me connected to local musicians.

The reason I got involved with helping artists was because I felt like it was a way for me to use my legal experience and knowledge to help the people who are out there doing great things in the art world every day. Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts presented me that great opportunity. It has been a very interesting and rewarding experience.

Question 2: Tell us briefly about one case/client you took on that really had an impact on you. (Excluding any classified/privileged info, of course)

The case that ultimately led to PVLA awarding me the Volunteer of the Year award was one. An artist for a children’s book wasn’t being paid by the publisher for her contribution (which was about 50% of the book). The publisher tried to claim they gave her the idea for the illustrations, and therefore that they owned them. I reached out to the publisher and their attorney and explained the situation from the artist’s perspective. Ultimately, the publisher returned the artist’s works and paid her share of the profits made from sales of the book. Another impactful case for me was the first one I took on for PVLA (over 14 years ago) – it was for a music producer who wasn’t being paid royalties by a record label. It was one of my first experiences with the inner workings of the recording industry, and it was very enlightening.

Question 3: What would your dream arts-related case look like?

I wouldn’t say I have a dream case, but there are definitely artists and entities I would be excited to work with – maybe something like a licensing deal with a major recording artist. Elvis Presley is my favorite artist of all time, and I would be extremely excited and honored to be able to work with the estate in any way.

Question 4: What is something you would advise to any artist or arts organization seeking legal counsel, or what would you tell them about the legal world in general? In other words, is there a certain issue that you come up against frequently when taking on PVLA clients that you think should be general knowledge?

There is no issue that I see coming up over and again, except maybe artists failing to consider the value of their intellectual property prior becoming involved in a dispute. I would advise all artists to become at least generally familiar with the differences between patents, trademarks and copyrights, and to research how artists are paid for their works in their particular industry. For instance, if you are a musician, do some research on how to protect your songs, the way the music industry works in general, and what rights and royalties you might expect at the entry level.

Question 5: What keeps you motivated to keep providing legal advice to artistic/cultural entities?

Just seeing different things all the time. Every case I get from PVLA is different, and that keeps me coming back for more.

Question 6: What is your favorite arts/culture spot to visit in Philadelphia?

Wow, this is a tough one – I feel like I should say the Kimmel Center or the Barnes Foundation (both awesome places), but that wouldn’t be completely true to my personality. With my love of music, I’d say The Electric Factory is really my favorite arts spot in Philly. I try to go see at least 4-5 shows a year. The Trocadero and World Café Live! are definitely strong runners- up. Also, in the summer, if you can see any band on the small stage at Great Plaza on Penn’s Landing, do it!

Thank you for your time, Mr. Gambino - and thank you for all you do for the greater Philadelphia region's artists!