Canadian Music Copyright Killing the Golden Goose

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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Photo credit: Thinkstock


june t.
reft h5 years ago

didn't know about this - thanks for the info

Marie W.
Marie W5 years ago

Death by forms.. worse than death of 100000 paper cuts.

marc page
Marc P5 years ago

And this is exactly why people pirate music and movies to begin with. I have no problem with paying the Artist. But the reality is that the money gets distributed between a lot of middlemen and the artist gets pennies on the dollar. To me it is rob or be robbed!

Josephine T.
Josephine T5 years ago

Copyright laws the world over need to be simplified, as well as the payment schemes, especially the whole "pay to play at a public venue", especially when that venue is invite only (weddings, for instance) or the music is not being played as part of the admission (parades, background music in hair salons, restaurants and the like).

Payment to artists has always been a joke - just lump it in one big pile, take the lawyers' cut and the associations' cuts off the top, divide the rest by genre, and parcel it out by the supposed popularity of the groups within that genre. Your local groups, who are performing good, original stuff, don't get squat because they've only cut 1,000 CDs (as an example I am personally familiar with).

And as far as the issue Milan L raised, I quite agree - you bought the CD/DVD/book/whatever, it's *yours*. Enjoy, copy to whatever medium. Just please don't copy it and resell the copy. But if it's for your own personal use, SOCAN/RIAA/etc. can just keep the frak out of it.

(I'm a professional musician with three self-published recordings to my credit, so I do have some clue as to what I'm talking about.)

John R.
John R5 years ago

You pay more for music if people dance to it??? SERIOUSLY???? 2thumbsdown!!!

Leslea Herber
Leslea Herber5 years ago

SOCAN... The Canadian RIAA. Bad news with your WANTS. They're not going to be met. People will tell them what they've told the RIAA. Take a hike.

John B.
John B5 years ago

Thanks for the article Cathryn. Sounds like the system needs to be simplified.

Jen Matheson
Past Member 5 years ago

This is pathetic. On the artists already well off will see any profits from this thing. At the same time, they're killing off they're fanbase by telling us when and where we can listen.

Kasia Y.
Kasia Y.5 years ago


Christina Robertson
Tina Robertson5 years ago

OK so now we will all listen to music produced in America, UK or any other country but Canada. All the more reason for Canadian talent to move down south or go to Europe.
Guess I will have to keep my windows closed in case the " music police" might here me playing some Canadian artist.....well done Canada.