Nancy E. Wolff

Nancy E. Wolff

Partner, New York

Nancy Wolff is a partner at the intellectual property, media and entertainment law firm of Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard, LLP located in New York, NY, and Beverly Hills, CA.  She represents a wide range of creative individuals and companies in all areas of digital media, art law, licensing, and publishing and serves as counsel to the Digital Media Licensing Association. Nancy is co-chair of the firm’s Litigation Department and co-chair of the firm’s Art Law Group based on her deep knowledge of copyright, defamation, and other third-party rights.

She represents photographers, artists, collectors, museums, galleries, and publishers in all transactional issues. She provides guidance on best practices in using content and offers guidance in areas of content, and a pre-publication review of books, documentaries, films, podcasts, and television series. Nancy counsels on creative deal structuring, the acquisition and sale of properties and art collections, and reviews licensing and services agreements; exhibition agreements, and agreements involving interactive and emerging technologies.

Nancy is a frequent speaker throughout the United States and Europe on copyright, media, and licensing and has received significant recognition for her expertise in copyright law. She is a Past President of the Copyright Society of the USA (CSUSA) and a member of the ABA IP Task Force on Copyright Reform. She has been published by Allworth Press, ABA Landslide Journal, and a book of essays she co-edited on 21st Century Copyright Law published with Focal Press.


  • The Best Lawyers in America 2021, “Copyright Law, Trademark Law, Litigation – Intellectual Property”
  • New York Law Journal, “2020 New York Trailblazer”
  • “Lawyer of the Year – Trademark,” The Best Lawyers in America 2020
  • Chambers & Partners USA, “Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets -–New York,” 2017-2020
  • Crain’s New York, “Notable Women in Law” honoree, 2019
  • Managing IP, “Top 250 Women in IP,” 2018/19
  • “Best Lawyer,” Copyright Law and Trademark Law, The Best Lawyers in America 2017-2020
  • New York Metro Super Lawyer,” Super Lawyers, 2013-2018
  • “Top 50: Women New York” — Metro” Super Lawyers, 2015-2018
  • 2017 “Texas Star Award” recipient, Texas Bar CLE


The Routledge Companion to Copyright and Creativity in the 21st Century, Routledge Taylor and Francis Group (co-edited by Nancy E. Wolff and Michelle Bogre, with essays by Elizabeth Altman, Scott J. Sholder and Kenneth N. Swezey)

Show the Tattoo: Video Game Company Free to Depict Inked Basketball StarsDigital Media Licensing Association, June 18, 2020 (co-authored with Scott J. Sholder)

“Best Practices in Image Licensing,” The Licensing Journal, Vol. 40, No. 3, March 2020

Copyright 2020 Law & Practice USAChambers & Partners (co-authored with, Scott J. SholderSara Gates and Elizabeth Altman)

Featured, “Illuminating the Profession: Women in Copyright,” by Ralph Oman, ABA Landslide; March/April 2018

Copyright Protection of Images” ABA Landslide; May/June 2017, (co-author with Mikaela Gross)

Author, Professional Photographer’s Legal Handbook (Allworth Press)

Contributor, Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA) industry blog

Webinars for DMLA on Copyright, Fair Use, When Releases are Necessary, Sensitive Subjects Releases, Representations and Warrantees

Interview on “The Future” YouTube channel, What Is Fair Use & Copyright Infringement?

Associations & Activities

  • Copyright Society of the USA (CSUSA), Past President
  • American Bar Association (ABA), Intellectual Property Section; co-Chair, Visual Arts and Dramatic Works Committee, 2020-2021; Task Force on Copyright Reform
  • Media Law Resource Center (MLRC)
  • Section 108 Study Group, convened by the Library of Congress, and charged with updating the Copyright Act, previous member


“Hot Topics in Tech,” “Hot Topics in Legal,” and “Section 512 Reform,” DMLA 2020 Conference, October 26-30, 2020

“Fair Use is not a Verb, and YouTube is not Public Domain,” DOC NYC, October 13, 2020

Panelist on behalf of DMLA, House Judiciary Committee Listening Session on Section 512c of the Copyright Act, August 18, 2020

“Comparative Copyright Law: Key Differences Between Canada, US and EU,” Intellectual Property Institute of Canada (IPIC) Webinar, May 14, 2020

  • “CASE Act Introduction,” ABA Day Online Panel, April 22-23, 2020
  • “Paparazzi & the Law,” Fordham Law School’s Media & Entertainment Symposium, February 18, 2020
  • “Catching Up on the CASE Act,” Copyright Society of the USA (CSUSA) Midwinter Meeting, February 14, 2020
  • “CASE Act,” Columbia Law School Current Issues in Copyright Seminar, January 28, 2020
  • “Copyright Changes,” The Photo Society Winter Rendezvous, January 15, 2020
  • Panel on EU Copyright Directive, 2019 Centre of the Picture Industry (CEPIC) Congress, June 6, 2019
  • “Content Licensing Tips,” 2019 ABA-IPL Annual Meeting and Intellectual Property Law Conference, April 10, 2019
  • Participant, U.S. Copyright Office Public Roundtable on Section 512, April 8, 2019
  • “Hyperlinking and Right of Public Display,” Columbia Law School Kernochan Center Spring IP Lunch Talk Series, March 12, 2019
  • “What is Art? Answers from the Copyright Office,” 2019 Federal Bar Association (FBA) Art Law and Litigation Conference, February 7, 2019
  • “Fair Use Case Studies,” 2019 DOC NYC PRO, November 15, 2018
  • “Hot Topics in Legal,” 2018 Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA) Annual Conference, October 21, 2018
  • “Distributing Content Across Multiple Platforms,” Practising Law Institute (PLI) Technotainment” 2018, October 15, 2018
  • “Copyright v. Fair Use: Rights v. Remedies,” 2018 Federal Bar Association (FBA) Annual Meeting and Convention, September 13, 2018
  • Webinar, Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA) Copyright in the “21 Century: Back to Basics,” July 17, 2018
  • “Understanding Risk: A Deep Dive into Employment Issues and Intellectual Property,” The Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) Business Affairs Boot Camp, June 14, 2018
  • “Copyright Law: ISP Liability Including Linking and Embedding,” Fordham University School of Law IP Institute 26th Annual Intellectual Property Law & Policy Conference, April 5, 2018
  • “Wait! Wait! Don’t Sign That: A Writer’s Guide to Book Contract Basics,” 2018 Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Annual Conference March 8, 2018
  • “Copyright for Photographers in the Digital Age,” Copyright Society of the USA, March 1, 2018
  • “New York Right of Publicity Law: Reimagining Privacy and the First Amendment in the Digital Age,” Cardozo Law School Arts & Entertainment Law Journal (AEJL), February 22, 2018
  • “Understanding the Legal and Business Environment Visual Artists Work In,” The Arts & Entertainment Advocacy Clinic, the Journal of International Commercial Law, and CEPIC at Scalia Law Best Practices in Rights Clearance: A Symposium for Professional Visual Artists and Arts Lawyers, January 18, 2018
  • “Photographer v. Non-Photographer Panel,” Center for Art Law Art Law Mixer, November 29, 2017
  • Luncheon Presentation, “Making Copyright Work for Photographers: Thoughts on Current Copyright Reform” and Panelist, “Best Practices in Image Licensing,” TexasBar CLE 27th Annual Entertainment Law Institute, November 16, 2017
  • “Get Your Permissions Right. Copy That!,” Visual Connections New York 2017, October 25, 2017
  • “Legal Panel: Legal Developments You Need to Know,” 2017 Digital Media Licensing Association Annual Conference, October 23, 2017
  • “Legal Issues for Photographers,” 2017 Photographic Society of America (PSA) Conference, October 13, 2017
  • “Street Art & Property Rights: Legal Issues Involving Public Art & Real Property,” State Bar of Michigan Arts, Communications, Entertainment and Sports Section (ACES) Annual Meeting & Program, September 28, 2017
  • “Update Your Contracts: A Legal Workshop with Takeaway Contracts,” The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), July 25, 2017
  • “What Authors and Publishers Need to Know about Fair Use,”2017 BookExpo, June 1, 2017

Representative Matters

  • Successfully defended a fine art photographer, Arne Svenson, in a right of publicity action, with a unanimous decision by the Appellate Division 1st Department upholding that photographs are expressive works entitled to full First Amendment protection and exempt from New York’s right of privacy law that requires written permission from the subjects
  • Represented clients in mediation hearings involving copyright infringement claims
  • Resolved several copyright cases for various image licensing companies involving images of graffiti and murals and publicity handouts
  • Representing estate of significant 20th Century artist in a publishing dispute with former employee
  • Resolved numerous copyright infringement cases on behalf of publishers brought by copyright firms that file large volume of copyright cases
  • Successfully resolved a copyright case against an image library for claims of copyright infringement and removal of copyright management information involving images donated to the Library of Congress
  • Successfully represents leading TED Talk speaker and writer in terminating a speaker’s bureau agency agreement
  • Successfully negotiated settlements for alleged copyright infringement on behalf of several image libraries, bloggers and educational publishers
  • Successfully resolved copyright cases on behalf of manufacture of lace designs in various copyright infringement cases against retailers and distributors
  • Successfully defended claims on behalf of a major photo library by models asserting defects in releases
  • Successfully resolved copyright action involving an app developer and former licensor
  • Represented the Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA), filing amicus briefs in various federal court matters involving the validity of copyright registrations in photographs, the ability to offer editorial images in an online environment without violating California publicity laws, the liability of ISPs and payment providers under the DMCA in hosting sites of pirated content, and the boundaries of fair use and visual images as it applies to appropriation art
  • Review publishing agreements for authors
  • Represents a popular children’s series book author to navigate publishing agreements with increased e-publication rights.
  • Represents National Geographic Photographers Group in negotiations with a major publisher, with respect to their assignment contracts
  • Counsel to the Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA) and created industry contract forms, copyright education programs and advocates on behalf of the members on copyright and right of publicity issues.
  • Represents image libraries in distribution agreements for editorial content
  • Represents DMLA at round tables convened by the U.S. Copyright Office on Section 512(c) of the Copyright Act
  • Represents coaches and other influencers in connection with publishing contracts, trademarks and licensing agreements
  • Offer expert consulting advise in copyright and damages to other law firms
  • Counsel to PLUS Coalition, a non-profit organization developing standards in image licensing
  • Negotiated the license for a start-up to use the works of a Hollywood fashion legend
  • Prepared and negotiated all the contracts for an international company that offers marketing and design templates, including the acquisition of the domain name for its brand, trademark registrations, entity formation, licensing agreements, white-label distribution, printing agreements, and website terms and conditions
  • Represents award-winning digital agencies that produce multi-platform online content for famous brands in contract negotiations, trademark filings and general counseling
  • Worked with a client in creating an iPhone app for model, property and talent releases for the stock photography and film industry
  • Assisted several stock libraries in acquiring complementary image libraries
  • Provides counseling to heirs of artists and advice to artists concerning gifting, loaning, or selling collections to institutions
  • Prepare social networking policies and website terms and conditions
  • Represented an internationally renowned artist in her contract with Louvre Gallery and in the production of a film about the making of her work
  • Testified on copyright remedies before the Congressional Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet for the United States House of Representatives, 113th Congress, 2nd Session on July 24, 2014
Pre-Publishing Review
  • Vets manuscripts for publishers on subjects as diverse as the financial crisis; illegally paying college athletes; the making of the top selling rock album; a collection of works on graffiti artists; and the history of a legendary English rock band
  • Pre-pub review and fair use opinion letter for documentaries, TV series, podcasts and films for Errors and Omissions insurance purpose

Pro Bono

  • Founding Legal Advisor, Copyright Alliance
  • Board Member, Photography Collections Preservation Projects
  • Board Member, The Foundation for Gender Equality