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Terry Adamson is executive vice president of the National Geographic Society, one of the world’s largest not-for-profit educational and scientific organizations. He also manages operational aspects of the society’s international publishing growth. What’s top of mind for you in your job right now? What’s in those folders piling up on your desk? The global nature of our activities has expanded fast, dramatically impacting the legal team and the business units. We have five magazines, over 100 book titles a year, TV documentaries, a Web site, merchandise licensing, school publishing, cartographic, and mission programs such as scientific, expedition, and educational grants and projects. We’ve created a fund for urban education to honor two employees who were on the Pentagon plane on Sept. 11, and an Afghan Girls Fund for girls denied education by the Taliban. We now have 21 local-language editions of National Geographic magazine, which was only in English a few years ago. We should have editions in Russian, Hungarian, and Romanian next year. Our National Geographic Channel is now seen in some 150 million homes in many languages, which adds a distribution medium to the documentary production for which National Geographic has long been known. We also make large-format films and have entered the feature-film market. This rapid increase in markets around the world has changed the way we do legal and business work, and even impacts the way we create editorial matter. This growth involves a huge number of transactions, alliances, and partnerships. The legal staff invests much time in relations with photographers and film-makers who are the best in the world at what they do. One example is our standard free-lance assignment contract, one of our most important documents. It is photographer-friendly, but also serves to protect the society’s interests. It is frustrating that the most visible and vexing litigation against the society is from a handful of former photographers. Out of thousands of photographers who have worked with us, several have sued National Geographic over “The Complete National Geographic on CD-ROM,” an image-based reproduction of every page of every magazine since 1888. The society believes that this use — this exact reproduction of the collective work, whether on paper or electronically on CD-ROM — was authorized by Congress by the 1978 Copyright Act, an approach seemingly approved by the Supreme Court opinion last year in Tasini v. New York Times. Yet we had a decision before Tasini against us in the 11th Circuit, reversing a summary judgment in our favor. The register of copyrights promptly called the 11th Circuit “wrong” in public forums, and based on Tasini and the statute, we continue to fight for the right to reproduce our archive as an exact reproduction of our collective work. Describe your nonlegal or administrative duties. How much time do you spend as a manager of lawyers and staff? What are the top issues and challenges you face in that area? About a quarter of my time is spent as a manager of our 11 lawyers and other legal staff. Our international growth in publishing also takes a significant amount of my time in terms of management and relationships and internal coordination among product groups, as we partner with media organizations around the world. I help create and sustain good relations with organizations and governments around the globe. I spend time as the coordinating link to members of our board of trustees. I serve on the boards of our taxable subsidiaries that manage our television and Web activities, whose net revenues go to the mission of the society. And there are a number of issues, legal and otherwise, that must be worked through with National Geographic Channel entities in which we have significant investments and involvement. Much of this time is spent working in concert with our president, John Fahey, on the many managerial and strategic issues facing an organization like ours — some legal, some business, aspects of communication, and some simply matters of judgment. What kind of work do you send out? What do you keep in-house? We use outside counsel in all litigation. Our lawyers have a variety of personal specialties, from TV production to entertainment industry labor issues to employment law, complex corporate transactions, litigation, contracts, and intellectual property, but they are extensively engaged in the course of any litigation. For example, we are presently concluding an estate contest in Tennessee arising from a 1927 will naming the society as a beneficiary of a trust. And one of our attorneys has been working for five years with Knoxville counsel on very complex issues of estate law. She has done independent research and written our briefs and arguments, although skilled local counsel was essential. We are very cost-sensitive and seek to form relationships with firms that recognize our not-for-profit mission in pricing and commitment. Which law firms do you or your department regularly turn to in various substantive areas? We generally seek to retain specific lawyers for particular matters from a handful of firms with whom we have developed strong relationships. Just to name a few, Steve Weiswasser and a team at Covington & Burling have represented us in National Geographic Channel matters, and Anthony Herman at Covington is handling a technology litigation. David Hensler at Hogan & Hartson has handled several business litigation matters. He just resolved an insurance coverage issue on behalf of six students and teachers who were on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon en route to a National Geographic expedition in California. Patricia Ambrose of Hogan & Hartson counsels us on employment issues, and Emily Yinger and Bill Nussbaum are handling an employment litigation. Kerry Scanlon at Kaye Scholer just concluded an employment litigation for us, and Steve Glickstein and Christopher Brewster from there have worked with us on product issues. Boies, Schiller & Flexner is currently counseling us with respect to a possible litigation matter, as is Stephen Zachs in Miami on the CD-ROM litigation. Bob Sugarman at Weil Gotshal is lead on the CD-ROM litigation. Paul Kilmer at Holland & Knight handles our trademark work. Celia Roady of Morgan Lewis and Suzanne McDowell of Steptoe advise on not-for-profit tax matters.

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