Canadian Songwriters Secure Royalty Ruling Around Broadcast Plays

Rights holders in Canada earned a victory last week when the Supreme Court ruled that copies of musical works for broadcast are protected by copyright law, siding with the collective management society SODRAC over objections by the CBC.

The court confirmed that the copies of audio-visual works -- incidental music used in broadcasts -- have specific value and that broadcasters must pay royalties. The court added that SODRAC has the right to issue synchronization licenses as they see fit, separately for television producers and broadcasters.

As the ruling explains, broadcast-incidental copies are technical in nature and are created "solely for purposes integral to the process of broadcasting television program" and are "not sold or made available to the public." The ruling also explains how they are made:

SODRAC applauded the ruling, but said it was disappointed that the case must be returned to the Copyright Board of Canada to again determine the value of the royalties for the broadcast-incidental copies.

"Several aspects of this decision confirm the legitimacy of our rights and of the actions we are taking to maximize our author, composer and music publisher members' royalties," said Jehan V. Valiquet, Chairman of SODRAC. "While recognizing the rights of music creators, the Supreme Court has also define the scope of our rights in the digital realm. However, we are disappointed to have to re-initiate a long and expensive process, so that these rights can translate into royalties."

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Trade group Music Canada called the decision "an affirmation for Canada’s creative middle class.” Graham Henderson, president & CEO, added that the "creative community should have access to a fair and functioning market that rewards them based on demand for their work. This is critical for Canadian artists whose livelihoods depend on earning fair compensation from their profession and for the companies that invest in them and their careers."


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