Monthly Archives: June 2014

Music Copyright in the Internet Age

Published 06/19/2014

By Gilles Daigle

Since the advent of digital technology, there has been and continues to be a very wide range of differing views on the proper place of copyright protection for music. Music has been at the forefront of the debate since the earliest days of filesharing. That reality has been experienced in many forms, including legislative amendments, court decisions, academic debates and plenty of discourse by stakeholders on all sides of the issue.

This is hardly new. In the mid-1800s, a group of French composers in a Paris café-concert venue refused to pay their bill in response to the café’s refusal to pay them for the performance of their music on the premises. That little dispute made its way into the courts and lead to the establishment of the world’s first performing rights society.

About 75 years later, a new debate took place to deal with the advent of the revolutionary technological development known as radio broadcasting. Could this new use of music be considered public performance? The laws would have to (and did) change to ensure that composers would receive fair compensation. Further controversy and debate would result from the advent of yet another new technology thirty years later, transmission of television programs by cable and satellite.

Now we have music use on the Internet. As with the previous developments, courts and legislatures are slowly but surely acting on the issues raised by this and other new technologies. Do free-trial subscriptions offered by Netflix constitute “fair dealing”? Do radio stations no longer need to pay reproduction rights royalties for copying music on their computerized programming systems?  Time will tell. And for each case, the first answer may not be the last word.

Nothing new. But what is new is the view that digital technology has rendered copyright laws and policies ineffective, or even obsolete – that they need to be fundamentally changed, or eliminated. I disagree, and believe that one shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Current issues will be sorted out, as they have been in the past.  In the meantime, the fundamentals remain strong.

Copyright is what allows SOCAN’s more than 120,000 members to earn money for the public performance of the music they’ve written. In 2013, SOCAN – a non-profit collective owned by our songwriter, composer and music publisher members – collected a record $276-million in total revenue, and distributed a record $240-million of that to our members. None of this would be possible without copyright, which is the mechanism by which our members claim ownership of their work, and are able to collect money for its performance.

As the digital age blossoms, music copyright allows SOCAN to work, on behalf of our members, to license new music uses that come into existence – even though it’s not always easy. SOCAN’s raison d’être is to represent and defend the rights and interests of our more than 120,000 members, so of course we work hard to license new music uses as they emerge, and defend our members’ rights against legal challenges when they arise (which is often). We wouldn’t be able to do so without copyright, and only music that is copyright-protected can be licensed, and provide royalties for those who wrote that music, published it, and earned them.

YouTube offers a perfect example of SOCAN licensing a new music use. In addition to directly collecting performing rights licence fees from YouTube and distributing those royalties for the first time in 2013, SOCAN also initiated its collaboration with Audiam – a company that aggregates and monetizes other music uses on YouTube – to facilitate an additional royalty stream. SOCAN made its first distribution on behalf of Audiam in November 2013, and early predictions show that this source of revenue is growing by as much as 700 percent since the last quarter alone. SOCAN has made great efforts to educate our members so that they understand and are able to claim these royalties, which we would be unable to collect without copyright.

As with YouTube and Audiam, SOCAN partners with all kinds of companies, large and small, to enable them to use copyright-protected music to enhance their business and customer experience, while ensuring that the SOCAN members who created it get paid for that use. It’s a win-win-win arrangement for the businesses, their customers, and our SOCAN members, and copyright is the basis on which it stands. Our Licensed to Play campaign, launched in February 2014, encourages businesses and their customers to confirm their recognition that music is an instrumental aspect of their experience, and showcases the implicit partnership and mutual admiration that licensed businesses have with our members.

SOCAN works not only with companies that use music in their business, but continually strives for more collaboration and alliances with like-minded music rights organizations (MROs) to make music copyright more effective. For example, in March 2014 we launched MusicMark, a collaboration between ASCAP, BMI and SOCAN, which allows all three organizations to share their data, making copyright work better for the members of all three MROs. MusicMark also makes the music registration process much simpler and more efficient for them. Once MusicMark is fully implemented, songwriters, composers, and music publishers will be able to submit a single registration file simultaneously to all three MROs.

Copyright is, quite simply, the foundation upon which all of SOCAN’s activity stands, and without which we would be unable to collect any performance royalties and distribute them to our members – let alone the $240-million we provided to our members in 2013. It’s what allows our members to survive, earn a living, and even thrive.

Much work remains to be done – that can’t be denied. But where copyright is concerned, don’t stop believin’!

President’s Message: SOCAN strives to reinvent itself

Published 06/10/2014

By Stan Meissner

While 2013 may seem like a distant memory now that we’re into summer, this is the time of year we look back at our annual results and achievements. Throughout last year, SOCAN has been striving not only to reinvent itself, but to actually reinvent what a performing rights organization (PRO) can and should be. With many bold initiatives, SOCAN’s board and staff have been actively working to “raise the bar” for performing rights in Canada and set an example for PROs around the world.

It’s very clear that YouTube is one of the most widely used outlets for online music and, over the last year, SOCAN’s management team and board have been actively investigating, negotiating and initiating new ways for members to earn royalties in this evolving landscape. In addition to directly collecting YouTube license fees (under tariff 22D) and distributing YouTube royalties for the first time in November 2013, SOCAN initiated its collaboration with Audiam, a company that aggregates and further monetizes music uses on YouTube to facilitate an additional royalty stream.  SOCAN made the first distribution on behalf of Audiam also in November 2013, and early predictions show that this source of revenue is growing exponentially.

In an effort to operate more efficiently, SOCAN underwent a thorough review of staffing needs and was able to reduce headcount by 13.5 percent, significantly lowering annual expenses, while maintaining and even improving high levels of service and performance. Many of these reductions were realized in the restructuring of the licensing department by outsourcing smaller general licensing accounts.

Further, due to retirements in certain key positions, SOCAN was able to add some new faces on its executive team, such as Michael McCarty – a former member of the Board of Directors – to the position of Chief Membership Officer. Michael’s enthusiasm, keen view of the needs of members and ability to energize the Membership Department was instantly apparent. As a result of Michael’s hiring, his vacant seat on our board was filled, by Neville Quinlan of peermusic, according to the 2012 election results, as required by SOCAN’s bylaws.

Even though SOCAN elections aren’t coming until next spring, we must be doing something right, because recently, SOCAN management has again seen fit to hire from within our board with the addition of Geneviève Côté to the role of Chief Québec Affairs Officer.  Replacing Geneviève on the board, also according to our 2012 election results, is Patrick Curley from Third Side Music.

All in all, SOCAN’s success in 2013 was a direct result of forward thinking and reinventing the way we do business to make us more proactive, efficient, adaptable and prepared to face what lies ahead in the constantly changing music industry landscape. We’re confident that the path we’re on will continue to benefit our membership tremendously, as we continue to reinvent SOCAN and the definition of a PRO.

It’s a small world after all

Published 06/5/2014

By Jeff King

SOCAN members are paid royalties when their music is performed in most countries around the world.  These international performances have always provided, and continue to provide, an increasingly important income stream for many SOCAN members.

In fact, more than 20 percent of royalties distributed to SOCAN members are derived from performances of their music in other countries. In 2013, SOCAN collected more than $51 million from performing rights organizations (PROs) around the world for our members. This is the first time that SOCAN members have surpassed the $50 million mark for royalties originating from outside of Canada.

It’s also an increase of eight per cent over 2012, and continues the positive trend that has seen royalties surge from $39 million in 2007 to $47 million in 2012 and now $51 million in 2013. The number of SOCAN member songwriters, lyricists, composers and music publishers who receive royalties from outside of Canada has more than doubled over the past six years.

So how does SOCAN collect these all-important international royalties?

Through reciprocal agreements with PROs in many countries throughout the world – like ASCAP, BMI and SESAC in the U.S., PRS For Music in the U.K. and SACEM in France – SOCAN receives royalties from them for performances of our members’ music. In turn, SOCAN distributes royalties to these affiliated PROs for performances of their members’ work in Canada.

Our members provide information to SOCAN about their international performances and repertoire, and SOCAN, in turn, keeps international PROs updated about them. This enables those foreign PROs to administer our members’ performances and repertoire in their own countries, and provide international performance royalties to our members through SOCAN. We also review international music publications regularly to track our members’ activities abroad, and obtain worldwide music release information through the international CISNet database.

We’re currently investigating services that will better provide information on international performances, to ensure that our members’ music is even more accurately identified, and that maximum royalties are fairly collected and paid. Thanks to SOCAN’s pursuit of ever more efficient, effective collection of international royalties, our members will be able to earn the greatest possible rewards from this crucial income stream.