"Commercial Use of Copyright Material Requires a License"

copyright 1996 by Monte Nordstrom
from issue #31 - Cosmic Debris Musicians Magazine - July '96
(additional info supplied by SOCAN)

It seems that everywhere we go these days we are surrounded by music. Sporting events, exercise classes, stores, bars, restaurants and even elevators have the sound of music emanating from some source. Radio, television, video games, movies all feature music. The field of entertainment seems to be expanding by leaps & bounds. These public usages of music are legally required to be licensed from the copyright owners by the business operators whose trade is enhanced by the ambience of this music.

The authorship of an intellectual work is protected in this country by the federal Copyright Act. This act dictates the rights due to the authors of dramatic, literary and musical works. One right under the Act is the author's control of the reproduction of their copyright material, such as playing a recording or staging a live public performance of a song. If a business operator does not pay a fee or royalty to the author of a piece performed in their establishment, they may be infringing on the songwriters rights under the Canadian Copyright Act.

If you are a business that has music playing on your premises, you are required to obtain permission of the copyright owner and pay a fee for that usage. Obviously this would be impossible to do on an individual basis, given the thousands of writers, songs & publishers scattered thoughout the world. That is why there are performance rights organizations.

In Canada the administration of public performance of music is handled by SOCAN - the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada. Their license fees are controlled by Copyright Board approved tariffs and cover all music performance usages and distribute these monies back to the authors of the music through a complex non-profit system that ultimately issues royalty cheques to song writers. Thats the way it works and this is nothing new. Licensing fees have been collected from businesses for this purpose since 1925.

This system works and I'll illustrate the point here. Last month, I received a nominal SOCAN royalty cheque that originated from SESAC (the French Performance Rights organisation). The monies were compensation for recent multiple radio usages of a song (from the "Ptarmigan" album) entitled "Vancouver" that I co-wrote with Glen Dias in 1973. This record has been out of print since 1976. Strange but true. Vive la France!

Some new business owners may not be aware of these fees. Some may not have been approached by a performance rights organisation because their establishment has not yet come to the attention of the copyright watchdogs. These owners will be required to come on-line. Failure to do so can result in legal action for damages and an injunction prohibiting the use of music. Sic 'em, Shylock!

Imagine going out to dinner without the ambience of music, or going to a nightclub devoid of tunage. Forget it! Exercise classes would lack a certain dynamic without that high energy copyright musical beat, don't you think?

Recently a small Gulf Island establishment was contacted by SOCAN regarding their lack of a music license. The business owner was featuring a live music format and came to the attention of SOCAN either from a travelling SOCAN representative or possibly through a free listing in the Cosmic Debris Musicians Magazine.

Apparently at the time, the proprietor was incensed to be hit up for the legal licensing fee and contemplated dropping his music format (Blame the band!). He might also have been heard to say naughty words about the free Debris listing that may or may not have brought his unlicensedness to SOCAN. (Blame the *%#@ free listing!). However, when the cafe was contacted prior to this issue, music was heard playing in the background. Well guess what!

According to the SOCAN Tariff Summary Sheet:

Tariff #3A for Live Entertainment the last approved Fee is: 2.7% of annual compensation for entertainment or a minimum annual fee of $80.
Tariff #3B for Live Entertainment accompanied by Recorded Music is: 1.8% of annual compensation for entertainment or a minimum annual fee of $60.00
Tariff #15A for Background Music the fee is 10.96 per sq.ft./$1.18 per sq. meter (minimum annual fee of $90.38
Tariff #18 Recorded Music for Dancing by Patrons: Based on capacity, days per week & months per year in operation/ranging from $172.15 per year & up.
Tariff #20 Karaoke: $148.80 if establishment operates with karaoke no more than 3 days per week. $214.41 if it operates with karaoke more than 3 days per week.

The service industry has to realise that music is a business too, and without it, would be a pretty boring concept. Pay toll to the troll! La-di-dee, la-di-dah, Go Dancing!

By the way, God Bless Club Owners Who Feature Live Music!

If you have any questions regarding the SOCAN Music License and your business, write for an info package or call:
SOCAN, 1201 West Pender Street, Suite 400, Vancouver, B.C. V6E 2V2
(604) 669-5569 or 1-800-93-SOCAN or Fax: (604) 688-1142
Their Website: www.socan.ca

P.S. : Special thanks to Bruce and Megan at the Vancouver SOCAN offices!

Note: Monte Nordstrom has produced over 75 demos and has recorded 8 albums to date (Nov '99). He performs regularly at numerous venues on Canada's West Coast.
Email Monte at: nordstro@islandnet.com

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