Q: Regarding SOCAN’s right to collect on behalf of its members on downloads, what was SOCAN’s reaction to the Supreme Court of Canada’s July 12, 2012, ruling?
A: We were confident that the Copyright Board and the lower courts got it exactly right when they approved and upheld the tariff. We were surprised and disappointed that the rights of composers and music publishers to be compensated for downloaded music were taken away by the highest court of the land, stranding Canada in the small minority of countries around the world that do not recognize that downloads are in fact a “communication to the public.”
We found some satisfaction however in the fact that the Court upheld the rights of our members to be compensated for streaming music, an increasingly popular practice with Canadian consumers.
Ultimately, we view the download decision and the other four decisions rendered by the Supreme Court in the context of a constant erosion of support for creators by all branches of the Canadian Government. This is a very worrying and shortsighted trend and SOCAN intends to vigorously challenge it.
Q: What do the Supreme Court of Canada’s decisions mean for Canadian and international music creators and publishers?
A: The decisions are more complex than reported in the media. For this reason, and also because of the recent changes in the law resulting from bill C11, our legal team is reviewing the decisions and will recommend any actions to protect our members’ rights. This can include further legal action to, among other things, seek further clarification. As soon as we will have made the determination, we’ll let our members know.
Q: Do Performing Rights Organizations like SOCAN in other countries collect royalties for downloads?
A: Yes, this is common around the world, and unfortunately Canada will now be taking a different approach.
Q: Does this mean consumers will pay less?
A: A decision to take away the right of our members to collect royalties from downloads may mean that approximately three cents from a song will not be collected for the composers who made the work. If this is the case, consumers should not rejoice. It is unlikely that businesses would pass along those savings to consumers, rather than maintain the same prices and increase their own profitability. This was about big businesses trying to increase their profitability at the expense of the creative community.
To the best of our knowledge, there’s no significant difference in price point for business models in countries that do not collect this small royalty payment, compared with countries that do have it. In those instances, that means that consumers are not seeing a savings and composers are not receiving compensation. To us, that is unfair.
Q: Why is compensating composers for downloads so important?
A: Music enhances life. Music is also part of our culture and helps build vibrant and robust economies. Think of all the creative works available online. If we don’t allow creators to be remunerated for their work, they cannot continue to create those works that are vital to the online economy. Those who create and publish music should be fairly compensated for their talent and hard work. It is a fundamental responsibility of SOCAN to uphold these rights for all Canadian and international music creators and publishers, who SOCAN represents in Canada.
Q: What will be the impact on SOCAN after these decisions?
A: The impact will be to the songwriters, composers and publishers whose copyright works are being sold by companies while they receive nothing. SOCAN will continue to fight for the legal rights of our members to be compensated fairly for the use of their work, and we will explore every legal avenue available to us to do that.
Q: What will happen with the money collected for downloads and held over the years while this appeal was being decided?
A: Our legal team continues to review the decisions and will take any actions to protect our members’ rights. Rest assured, these funds will be allocated in accordance with the law once we determine the details.
Q: What does the future hold for Internet-based music?
A: We cannot predict the future, but we do believe that the future will see an increase in streamed, rather than downloaded, music. The Supreme Court of Canada upheld the right of Canada’s composers and publishers to be compensated for the streaming of their copyright works, and this is good news for them. It means that, as streaming grows, their right to fair compensation will be protected. In that sense, there is an online future for composers and publishers.