IP Intensive: SOCAN You Believe What A Tariffic Time I Had?

My placement at the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers (‘SOCAN’) as part of Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law and Technology Intensive Program was one of the most enriching experiences of my law school career. Firstly, the placement was the perfect marriage of student to organization, as I had a background in the music industry and am a card-carrying SOCAN member. Especially since the recent pentalogy decisions, copyright collectives have often been characterized as mysterious operations with nefarious agendas to erode the rights of user’s that have been established by the court. However, my experience was anything but, as I found the organization working diligently but reasonably to assert the rights of its members and administer their collecting duties.

 

While working at my placement, I was able to get a great sense of the wide range of legal knowledge that is expected from in-house counsel. In an organization as large as SOCAN, there are so many legal questions that arise in relation to just the day-to-day operations of the company. Initially, I had the impression that I would be mainly involved with proceedings at the Copyright Board and other types of intellectual property work, but it quickly became evident that legal counsel at SOCAN is relied on for a much greater scope of expertise. There were main question about areas of law as diverse as privacy, corporate governance, contractual drafting and even some class action settlements. There was ample opportunity to learn about these distinct areas and to provide research and support for the company in addition to the numerous copyright related projects that I was also assigned during my time there.

 

Yet SOCAN also provided the unique opportunity to get involved with a few litigation files, something that is typically outside the scope of the responsibilities of in-house counsel. The nature of copyright collectives requires that they are actively involved in enforcing the rights of their members and this presented the opportunity to engage in the writing of default judgments and other ex-parte motions. As a student interested in litigation, this experience was a welcome one and helped me to learn more about copyright damages and the civil litigation process. The work that copyright collectives do is very unique and the chance to learn about concepts such as statutory damages under section 38.1 and the way that they interact with the type of work that is done by collectives. I was even fortunate enough to get to observe and participate in a discovery proceeding and help outside counsel to prepare a witness for question under oath. The litigation regime that copyright collectives are involved with is very idiosyncratic and my time at SOCAN was an excellent introduction to this type of litigation work and to civil litigation in general.

 

While at SOCAN, I was also able to take in some of the company’s many activities that they arrange for their staff including lunchtime concerts, health awareness week and Halloween festivities. The lunchtime concert series, dubbed the SOCAN Sessions, involved small concerts given by SOCAN members such as Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies, Scott Helman and USS.  My favourite of these was likely the concert given by Ed Robertson, where he played a special improvised rendition of “If I Had a Million Dollars” that referenced the excessive sound equipment that SOCAN had rented for his small acoustic set. SOCAN is cited as one of Toronto’s top employers and during my time at the company, I was able to get a good understanding of why.

 

Overall, my experience at SOCAN was a positive and encouraging one. It presented me with the opportunity to learn more about copyright collectives and their day-to-day operations as well as the type of work that in-house counsel is involved with. The experience taught me that a practitioner working in house must truly be a jack-of-all-trades, and that sometimes at an organization such as SOCAN that even involves litigation work. I would highly recommend this placement to any future students who are interested in intellectual property litigation and also gaining a wealth of experience in other areas. The intimate lunchtime music performances are really just an added bonus to the legal experience and training that students receive.

 

Paul Zorn Pink is a JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School and was enrolled in Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law and Technology Intensive Program. As part of the program requirements, students were asked to write a reflective blog on their internship experience.

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