About Zia F. Modabber

Time and again, major recording artists, their key advisors and core industry companies trust Zia Modabber, the managing partner of the Los Angeles offices, to handle legal issues they face in the creation and protection of their assets. With decades of experience in the music and entertainment industry, he has an ability to not only address his clients' pressing legal issues, but also their long-term artistic and business interests. Zia is a sought-after litigator of intellectual property, First Amendment and other entertainment-related issues. And his ability to maintain a career-long perspective — along with his integrity and discretion — cements the trust between Zia and his clients that make him an invaluable counselor even outside of actual litigation.

Taming a high-stress environment

In a high-stress, high-reward industry, some of the biggest musical artists have relied on his experience, judgment and skill: Michael Jackson (and now his estate), Trent Reznor, Stevie Wonder, Celine Dion, Usher, Chris Brown, Slash and Jeff Lynne/Electric Light Orchestra among them. Zia also represents industry powerhouses Live Nation, The Recording Academy and MusiCares, as well as personal managers, agents, business managers and record and publishing companies.

Zia's industry relationships and reputation are tools that he brings to bear for his clients' advantage. He has deep experience in all forms of dispute resolution, from private mediations to high-profile jury trials and appeals and everything in between. His matters include cutting-edge issues, as in his representation of the former spouse of an R&B legend in a case involving the tension between state community property laws and the federal Copyright Act. And for Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), Zia won a multimillion-dollar jury verdict and the return from a former personal manager of all of Nine Inch Nails' trademarks and other intellectual property.

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"Zia Modabber is a wise and thoughtful attorney. I found the level of his care and counsel very helpful." "Zia is always my first call for complex copyright litigation and general sophisticated problem solving."

Chambers USA 2022
(California, Media & Entertainment: Litigation) survey response

Practice Focus

  • Music, entertainment and media litigation and counseling
  • Intellectual property litigation, including copyright and trademark disputes
  • Right of publicity
  • Defamation and First Amendment issues
  • Labor and employment issues

Representative Experience

  • General counsel to Trent Reznor, the Nine Inch Nails frontman turned Oscar-winning film score composer, in all motion picture scoring work, composer contracts and intellectual property matters.
  • Co-lead counsel representing the Estate of Michael Jackson in a royalty dispute with record producer Quincy Jones.
  • Defended Lance Armstrong in two federal class action lawsuits, one over the sale of his two biographies, and the other over his endorsement of FRS nutritional and performance products.
  • Conduct internal investigation for MusiCares and The Recording Academy regarding accusations of wrongful termination and of steering money away from the charity to cover expenses from the 2018 GRAMMYS telecast.
  • Represent former spouse of an R&B legend in a case regarding a critically emerging provision of the 1976 Copyright Act that permits artists to recover copyrights they had previously granted to third-party publishers. The musician had filed termination notices and asked a federal court to determine that, when he recovered those copyrights, he would do so free of the 50% interest owned by his former spouse as part of a divorce settlement.
  • Co-lead counsel for the Estate of Michael Jackson in a dispute with Jackson’s former manager, Tohme Tohme, who claims millions of dollars in unpaid commissions.
  • Represent the Estate of Michael Jackson in ongoing work focused primarily on the protection of the Estate's intellectual property assets, including copyrights, trademarks, rights of publicity and other assets.
  • Defended Michael Jackson's estate against anti-SLAPP motion and subsequent appeal in class action lawsuit alleging fraud and violation of unfair competition and consumer protections laws. Plaintiffs claimed Jackson was not the actual vocalist on three tracks from his first posthumous album. Obtained complete victory when California Appellate Court reversed trial court.
  • Represented several defendants in an idea submission case over the development of a television program. Obtained summary judgment.
  • Defend The Recording Academy and MusiCares against attacks by former employee.


Presentations and Events