The Canadian Copyright Board kicked off a large-scale hearing today in Ottawa over arguments about multiple tariffs that cover everything from performing rights in songs to mechanical reproduction rights.

"It's sure to be a landmark hearing, if only because it's the first time that the board has combined all radio-related tariffs into a single proceeding," says David Basskin, president of the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA).

The hearing will take more than a week and will hear debates over several tariffs, including those brought forward by the Society of Authors, Composers, and Music Publishers of Canada for performing rights in songs, an application by CMRRA and Société professionnelle des auteurs et des compositeurs du Québec dealing with reproduction rights, the Neighbouring Rights Collective of Canada and La Société de gestion collective de l'Union des artistes involving performing rights as well as the AVLA Audio-Video Licensing Agency and Quebec Collective Society for the Rights of Makers of Sound and Video Recordings.

Catharine Saxberg, executive director of the Canadian Music Publishers Association in Toronto, says the hearing is significant for its scope. Usually the Copyright Board would deal with each application separately. But the scale of the hearing could also be an issue, she says.

"The concern is [the Copyright Board] will take these as a sum and not on their individual merits," she says.

A decision on the applications is not expected until well into 2009.

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