Using music in your business? Copyright fees proposed to increase

Copyright tariffs in a nutshell

Businesses in Canada that use music require authorization by copyright owners to do so lawfully. In Canada, copyright tariffs are a form of music licence, and many commercial uses of music are licenced through tariffs certified by the Copyright Board of Canada. Copyright collectives represent their rights owner members by proposing tariffs to the Board, advocating for their proposals in proceedings before the Board, and administering the tariffs once the Board certifies them. Businesses that use music in Canada, and associations representing those businesses, often participate in Copyright Board proceedings to argue for fair rates and terms. The Board’s decisions and the tariffs that are certified generally reflect the input from both sides – owners and users.

In the past three months, for example, the Board published decisions on:

In each case, potential licensees were directly involved in putting forward their positions on the fees and terms for the licences to be certified.

Proposed tariffs – objections due soon

The Copyright Board of Canada recently published tariffs proposed by copyright collective societies for the years 2022-2024. Businesses and organizations that wish to object to these proposals – and have an opportunity to help shape what their ultimate costs will be – must do so by the end of November.  As always, proposals have been filed for a broad range of music uses by businesses that have premises, or that offer services, in Canada. Below are a few examples of proposals that, if adopted, would significantly increase fees for using music.

Streaming services – fees for music streaming

Re: Sound is a copyright collective representing performers and record companies for the performance right in Canada. Re: Sound has submitted to the Board its proposed Tariff 8 for music streaming (specifically, Non-Interactive and Semi-Interactive Music Streaming. 

For the years 2022 through 2024, Re: Sound is proposing the monthly rates that are the greater of either 

  • 21.75% of gross revenues, including subscriber, advertising and sponsor revenues, or
  • $0.00157 for each play of a music file (digital sound recording) in Canada;
  • with a minimum annual fee of $500 per playlist or program, to a maximum of $50,000 per year

The above rates would be in addition to any fees payable by streaming services to SOCAN, the collective society that represents authors, composers and publishers for a similar right. 

Retail stores, restaurants and professional offices – background music

SOCAN has submitted to the Board its proposed Tariff 15A for background music. The fee is paid by retail stores, restaurants and other businesses per square foot of their space open to the public.

For the years 2022 through 2024, SOCAN is proposing annual fees that are approximately 24% higher than currently applicable rates, as follows:

  • Annual fee of $1.53 per square metre or 14.28 cents per square foot, with a minimum annual fee of $117.75.

The above rates would be in addition to any fees payable by these same stores and restaurants to Re: Sound, the collective society that represents performers and record companies.

Movie theatres

SOCAN has submitted to the Board its proposed Tariff 6 for music embedded in movies.

For the years 2022 through 2024, SOCAN wants to move from a per seat / per screen model to a “gross receipts” model with a minimum annual rate that is proposed to double:

  • Annual fee of 0.25% of gross receipts from ticket sales, exclusive of any applicable taxes, with a minimum annual fee of $300 per screen

The complete list of tariff proposals submitted to the Board for 2022 through 2024 is available on the Board’s homepage. Objections to the Re: Sound tariff proposals above are due by November 27, and for the SOCAN proposals, by November 30.

If you or your client find yourself in a situation where you need advice on music licensing for Canada, consider reaching out to the Dentons Technology New Media and IP Litigation group, Intellectual Property and Technology group and Media, Entertainment and Sports in Canada group. Our professionals are experienced in facilitating licensing matters, including liability under copyright tariffs, direct licensing, and copyright disputes.

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Margot Patterson

About Margot Patterson

Margot Patterson is Counsel with Dentons' Intellectual Property, Communications Law, Competition Law, and Media, Entertainment and Sports practice groups, with a practice focused on media, brands and intellectual property.

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Bob Tarantino

About Bob Tarantino

Bob Tarantino is Counsel at Dentons Canada LLP and focuses his practice on the interface between the entertainment industries and intellectual property law, with an emphasis on film and television production, financing, licensing, distribution, and IP acquisition and protection.

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Meredith Bacal

About Meredith Bacal

Meredith Bacal is a partner in the Firm’s Intellectual Property, and Litigation and Dispute Resolution groups. Meredith has extensive experience litigating media, entertainment, defamation, and technology disputes. She has acted on several leading cases on Canadian copyright and personality rights in the course of her career. In addition, she has appeared before many levels of court, including the Superior Court, Court of Appeal, Divisional Court, and Federal Court, as well as numerous arbitral tribunals. In her litigation practice, Meredith has secured injunctions that prevent the unauthorized use of clients’ confidential information and the infringement of her clients’ intellectual property rights. Meredith regularly advises individuals and companies on matters relating to copyright and trademark infringement, goodwill, and personality rights. She is also a registered trademark agent advising companies on their branding strategies and securing trademark protection for them.

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