Music, Copyright Law and Everything In-Between: A Semester at SOCAN

Before coming to law school, I majored in music. I had been playing the piano for over 10 years by the time I started my undergraduate studies so integrating music into my post-secondary education made sense. I had this same mentality when I applied for Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law & Technology Intensive Program, which is what put working at the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers (SOCAN) at the top of my list.

SOCAN is a copyright collective that administers and protects the performing and reproduction rights of more than 150,000 songwriters, music publishers, composers, and visual artists worldwide. SOCAN also administers licences to businesses across Canada for a fee, which ensures that they are legally able to play music in their establishments and that SOCAN members receive payment for the use of their musical works.

I expected most of my time at SOCAN to focus on copyright litigation and while I was definitely able to do some interesting work in that area, that wasn’t the entirety of my experience. I soon realized that when working in an in-house capacity, you get to see a bit of everything.

I began my placement by attending my first copyright trial at the Federal Court of Canada. In the weeks that followed, I drafted documents for litigation and learned about the business decisions that need to be made when considering litigation. What became clear is that while SOCAN strives to ensure that they are aware of their obligations under Canadian copyright law, they also prioritize creating and maintaining positive relationships with their licencees.

I delved deeper into Canadian copyright law in the growing area of user-generated content and researched copyright in other jurisdictions such as the United States and Japan. I helped draft and review licensing agreements and, to my surprise, engaged with TV and Radio broadcasting issues such as Canadian Content requirements. As streaming and other digital services continue to make waves in the music industry, it was eye opening to see the concerns of traditional broadcasters and how other jurisdictions and copyright collectives are addressing them.

One of the highlights of my placement was being able to attend a wide variety of meetings. While some of them went a bit over my head, they helped me get a better understanding of SOCAN’s business and how the legal team supports their goals. Meeting with a UK foreign collective society was a great way to gain a global perspective on collective societies and learn more about the importance of these partnerships. Although it never crossed my mind that the licensing department would deal with estates issues, I learned how this area of law fits in with the distribution of royalties to members.

When I speak to students interested in attending Osgoode, I tell them that whether it be through clubs or the vast Clinical and Intensive Programs, there is always a way to integrate their interests into their studies. My placement at SOCAN this semester allowed me to do just that. The work that SOCAN’s legal team does is multifaceted and I appreciate the variety of work that I was assigned, their willingness to expose me to different areas of SOCAN’s business and in general, how welcoming they were. My experiences over the past 10 weeks have certainly laid down the foundation for my legal career, and I’m thankful to SOCAN and IP Osgoode for this opportunity!

Written by Annesta Duodu, Osgoode JD Candidate, enrolled in Professors D’Agostino and Vaver 2019/2020 IP & Technology Law Intensive Program at Osgoode Hall Law School. Here, she reports on her experience at the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), while interning there as part of the inaugural offering of the Intellectual Property Law and Technology Intensive Program (IP Intensive) at Osgoode.

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