Shawn Bentley, a former longtime Senate Judiciary Committee aide known for his expertise in intellectual property issues, lost his battle with cancer last week. He was 41.
Bentley, a nonsmoker who was diagnosed with lung cancer in March, most recently served as vice president for intellectual property and global public policy at Time Warner.
Friends and associates remembered Bentley, a devout Mormon, as “a gentleman’s gentleman” and a “lawyer’s lawyer” whose strait-laced image belied a passion for heavy metal music and guitar riffs.
“He was really scholarly,” said Time Warner lobbyist Susan Brophy, yet she added that Bentley also had a “head-banging side.”
Bentley first joined the Judiciary Committee in the early 1990s. During a decade as a panel staffer, Bentley served as both its chief intellectual property counsel and deputy chief counsel, overseeing intellectual property and entertainment matters. He was also a lead adviser to then-Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) on religious liberty and the balanced budget amendment.
Bentley was responsible for putting together the high-profile committee hearing on music downloading on the Internet in July 2000, which featured testimony from both Napster CEO Hank Barry and musician Lars Ulrich of Metallica, recalled Bentley’s former Judiciary Committee colleague Manus Cooney.
At one point during the hearing, “they downloaded a track off the Internet. It was the Creed song ‘With Arms Wide Open,’” a favorite of Bentley’s, said Cooney, now president and CEO of Potomac Counsel LLC. “He had it all worked out so it played out over the entire speaker system. … It had nothing to do with Sen. Hatch’s musical preferences.”
“He was the only guy I ever knew that had read ‘Ulysses’ twice, and he knew every chord change and every lyric to every Black Sabbath song,” said Richard Bates, vice president for government relations at Disney. Bates added he and Bentley bonded over their shared love for heavy metal and for playing the guitar.
After Bentley left Capitol Hill for the private sector in 2003, Judiciary subcommittee on intellectual property Counsel David Jones said he would check in with Bentley for pointers on “what was going on in the industry” and for background on various legislative issues.
“He knew the history inside and out with a lot of these bills,” said Jones, adding that Bentley was also “funny as hell” and could channel the James Bond character “Goldfinger.”
Bentley is credited with shaping numerous pieces of legislation, including the Satellite Home Viewer Reathorization acts, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Madrid Protocol Implementation Act.
“I’d be hard-pressed to name any recent intellectual property policy decisions that did not bear his mark in some way,” Hatch, who is scheduled to speak at Bentley’s funeral today, said in a statement.
Prior to arriving on the Hill, Bentley, who earned his bachelor’s from Brigham Young University and his law degree from the University of Chicago, worked for the Washington, D.C., law firm Dow, Lohnes & Albertson. In the early 1980s, he served as a missionary in New York City and Brazil for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He is survived by his wife, Becky; two daughters, Kathryn and Samantha; parents, Marion and De Anna Bentley, of Provo, Utah; brothers Jared, Chris and Gavin Bentley of Provo, Utah; and brothers Justin Bentley of Los Angeles and Derek Bentley of Oakland, Calif.
The funeral service will be held today at 11 a.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Oakton Virginia Stake Center, 2719 Hunter Mill Road, Oakton, Va.
Donations can be made to the Shawn Bentley Family Fund or the Foundation for Community Betterment, which assists needy families. Contributions to either fund should be sent c/o Lisa Whittaker, Time Warner, 800 Connecticut Ave. NW Suite 800, Washington, DC 20006.