Pay attention, Canadians. If you organize a parade, run a karaoke bar, want background music in your restaurant or other establishment, plan a public event of any kind (including weddings), play recorded music at a festival or fair or exhibition, or crank up the tunes at an outside event in a park or any public area, add one more cost to the list: music. With a new ruling that is retroactive to 2008, the music licensing picture just got even more complicated.
Anyone who uses recorded music publicly already pays (or is supposed to) licensing fees to SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada). Artists license their works through SOCAN and then receive royalties based on fees collected by the copyright collective.
Now music users will have to pony up a second set of fees and send them off to Re:Sound. That is the non-profit given the task of collecting and policing the new fees. Well, after all, the extra money tacked onto the purchase of blank CDs and DVDs has to be distributed. You may remember that money is being collected to compensate all the victims of music pirating.
Individual charges are not high. A bar with karaoke three days a week will pay $86.06 annually. An exhibition that draws up to 25,000 people will pay only $8.39. A wedding with up to 100 guests will pay $9.25, unless the guests dance, in which case they will pay $18.51.
Realistically, for all but a handful of successful musicians, money and music are pretty much strangers. So on the face of things, for the Copyright Board of Canada to add another point of payment for struggling artists is a reasonable idea. After all, the sound guy who runs the music through the system gets paid. So should the artist.
The problem is the system is already unwieldy, and this new tariff just makes it more so. If your hair salon plays music in the background, now they can add another set of forms and paperwork to the record keeping they already do for SOCAN. That school group lip synching on a float in the annual parade will need to keep track of the tunes they play and send the information, along with $4, to Re:Sound. A nation of music lovers is being turned into a nation of paper shufflers.
Copyright was developed to make it possible for the creators of original works to be fairly compensated for a set number of years. It was not intended to create mushrooming collection bureaucracies and mounds of paperwork for weddings and parades. Nor was it intended to lock up works beyond the life of the artist and into perpetuity.
The whole thing has become ridiculously complex and onerous. That just creates millions more scofflaws.
Remember how the music industry was going to die because of the ease of copying, and then downloading, tunes? The opposite is happening. As music becomes more accessible and cheaper on a per-unit basis, demand for it soars.
The whole copyright system started as a good thing. Now it is sounding too much like the Aesop’s fable about the goose that laid the golden eggs. The peasant who owned her thought he could get even richer if he killed the goose and harvested the eggs all at once. Instead, when he dispatched the goose, he was left with a carcass.
Copyright Board of Canada needs to figure out a simpler and more innovative scheme for compensating artists. Otherwise, they will just end up with a dead goose.
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