Kenneth P. Norwick: 1941-2023
Widely admired New York media lawyer, and passionate champion of artistic expression, Ken Norwick, died Monday, October 30th at the age of 82 at the Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, MA.
Born September 14, 1941, to Irving and Lillian Norwick, Ken grew up in the Bronx where he attended James Monroe High School. Ken excelled at academics and went on to earn his A.B. degree from Syracuse University in 1962 and his J.D. degree in 1965 from the University of Chicago Law School where he was a member of the Editorial Board of the Law Review and the founder and editor-in-chief of the Law School’s newspaper.
Early in his career, Ken was Legislative Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and subsequently served as a special counsel and consultant to both the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union. Throughout his career, Ken passionately argued on behalf of the First Amendment rights of creators and publishers, and fought against the censorship of speech, including unpopular speech like sexually explicit content.
Ken’s advocacy in defense of free speech continued into his many decades in private practice. In 1982, he co-founded the New York law firm, Norwick & Schad, with Tennyson Schad, where he practiced law for more than forty years. The firm’s main focus was representing authors, artists, photographers, and other creators. Ken’s media law case work was wide-ranging, but he was probably best known for his copyright law practice, protecting the rights of authors and artists to be fairly compensated for the use of their works. After Mr. Schad’s untimely death in 2001, Ken continued as the firm’s sole principal for the better part of the next twenty-two years. His clients have included the Dalai Lama, Garrison Keillor, Mitch Albom, Annie Leibovitz and Playboy Magazine.
Until 2022, Ken served as General Counsel to the Association of American Literary Agents and its predecessor organizations for more than four decades. He was the author of several books, including “The Legal Guide for Writers, Artists and Other Creative People,” which was most recently updated in 2017. For a time, he served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at New York Law School, teaching Publishing Law.
From the 1970’s, and continuing for some fifty years, Ken split his time between New York City, where his law practice was based and the Berkshires in Massachusetts. He raised his two children in Lenox with his former wife. Over the years, Ken enjoyed taking family and friends for boat rides on Goose Pond near his home in Tyringham. In the early nineties, when the future of Goose Pond was threatened due to the closing of Mountain Mill, Ken joined his neighbors as part of the Save Goose Pond Association. They successfully lobbied for special protected status for the pond, resulting in the state legislature creating the Goose Pond Maintenance District in 1994. Ken enthusiastically continued his involvement and proudly served as moderator of the annual meetings of the Goose Pond Maintenance District which is now nearing its 30-year anniversary.
For years, Ken played tennis several times a week. He was a news junky, an avid reader, a whiz at New York Times crossword puzzles and he never stopped believing in his beloved New York Mets.
While Ken legally defended the rights of artists, he was an aficionado of the arts himself. He loved movies – To Kill a Mockingbird and All the President’s Men were among his favorites – documentary films and live theater. Ken passionately loved music, especially standards, jazz and musical theatre with a lifelong appreciation for the work of Stephen Sondheim. He enjoyed attending performances by vocalists whether in large concert venues or in intimate jazz and cabaret clubs.
His pre-existing love for cabaret music entered a new realm in 2001 when he met cabaret singer/teacher Helen Baldassare who was introduced to Ken by a mutual friend. Ken and Helen were married in 2004 and their wedding as well as several other milestone birthday celebrations were cabaret-themed, complete with musical performances and storytelling by a cohort of musically talented friends and Helen herself. Ken – to everyone’s relief – did not participate in the singing.
Ken never stopped working, and even late in his career, won a landmark copyright case in the Southern District of New York in 2018, which New York Magazine said, “had the potential to shake the very foundation on which the modern internet is built, changing the way websites from huge publications to one-person blogs do business online.” That case, Goldman v. Breitbart, expanded the rights of photographers (and other artists) whose works are exploited on the Internet. It was the first court decision to depart from the Ninth Circuit’s “server test” for determining whether embedded visual works on the web can infringe the display right under copyright law. Goldman set in motion a national trend of courts moving away from the server test and finding liability for the use of embedded content on the Internet.
Ken also referred to himself as the “town crier” for the NY State Bar Association’s Media Law Committee, often emailing legal updates to his colleagues at the crack of dawn several times a week. Upon learning the news of Ken’s passing, one long-time colleague commented, “It is hard to imagine waking up in the morning without at least one email from Ken with the latest consequential news or decision in our world.”
Ken is survived by his wife Helen, children Rebecca and Daniel, son-in-law Peter Eyre, daughter-in-law Carol, grandchildren Zoe, Colin, Leo and Ivan, brother Robert, sister-in-law Brenda, and nephew Michael, a staff attorney at MLRC.
A memorial will be held in New York City early in the new year.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Ken’s name to the Entertainment Community Fund.