From the Twelve-inch Single to Online Music Services – A Semester at the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency

This semester I was a part of the Osgoode’s IP Intensive program. As a major part of that intensive I spent 11 weeks working at the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency Ltd. or the CMRRA.

The CMRRA is a collective society which administers mechanical (reproduction) rights in Canada. They administer these rights on behalf of music publishers and record labels through the licensing, collection and distribution of royalties for a significant amount of songs sold and broadcast throughout Canada as well as those distributed through online music services.

At the start of my placement, I was eased into my role with assignments and concerns that were more familiar to me through my previous exposure to IP issues in general and the Copyright Act in particular. Those topics included things such as reviewing old reciprocal agreements and I was given the opportunity to research extended collective licensing regimes and review the difference in current and proposed tariffs that were before the Copyright Board.

Over time the types of legal issues and research projects I completed became more varied. They could run the range from whether or not contracts were valid and more general contract review, to privacy issues in Canada and abroad, to more novel investigative issues on topics I would not have thought of myself.

A particular favorite exercise that I completed was a comparison between the two reports released this past year reviewing the Copyright Act by the standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology and the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. The focus was on how the proposed changes could have an effect on the CMRRA’s business depending on which issues and recommendation are chosen by the next sitting of Parliament, if any, after the election. In particular, the goal was to contrast the potentially complimentary or conflicting recommendations made by the two committees and how the underlying evidence presented to the committee resulted in the findings and recommendations that they concluded with. While this was a long term project that ended up being one of the longest reports I had ever written, it was a rewarding experience in itself as it gave me a new perspective on how to examine different issues in copyright from stakeholders I would not have considered.

This variety in the work I completed at the CMRRA gave me an appreciation for the work an in-house lawyer does. As an in-house lawyer, your role is not that of a traditional lawyer that law school attempts to prepare you for. Instead, you become an advisor of sorts to the company covering everything from business decisions, licensing agreements, company policy, discreet HR matters, records management and a plethora of other issues.  You deal less often with more traditional or stereotypical matters, such as litigation, and instead send that out to external firms. This aspect of the experience was invaluable to me, as this was not an appreciation I would have gotten through more traditional law jobs.

Written by Matthew Drinovac, Osgoode JD Candidate, enrolled in Professors D’Agostino and Vaver 2019/2020 IP & Technology Law Intensive Program at Osgoode Hall Law School. As part of the program requirements, students were asked to write a reflective blog on their internship experience.

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