A Semester of Bliss during a Pandemic: My Internship at SOCAN (IP Intensive Reflection)

Although the grim days of the COVID-19 pandemic have carried into the beginning of my third year at Osgoode, my acceptance into Osgoode’s Intellectual Property and Technology Intensive Program has kept my spirits high. I was one of the lucky few to have been given the chance to intern at the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN). SOCAN is a collective rights society that collects and distributes licence fees and royalties to artists for the public performance and mechanical reproduction of music. About three years ago, I came to Osgoode’s orientation week, walked to the Intellectual Property Law table set up in the hall, took a brochure discussing the IP Intensive, and read about a potential placement at SOCAN. Since then, I paved my law school path to get a spot there. One might say that the stars aligned when I received my placement, and the experience was exactly what I wanted and needed.

I came to Osgoode as a professional musician, and intended to get myself into copyright law and policy. What better place to realize that goal than getting a place in this internship? SOCAN’s focus is serving the world’s musicians; not only are they remunerating Canadian musicians for their performances and compositions, but they are also paying international musicians whose collective agencies have agreements with SOCAN. It’s a global operation, beyond simply managing music within Canadian borders. And not only that, but SOCAN is interested in copyright policy in Canada and internationally, whether it is being involved in the most important copyright cases of the past decade, or researching tariff policy of its international members performing anywhere internationally. It amazes me how many industries are involved with SOCAN nationally and globally.

Then there is the non-copyright work within an in-house environment that is so valuable for any law student seeking real-world legal experience. The common tasks that come up daily are usually not related to copyright at all, but are those common in any legal atmosphere, whether it be litigation- related, general research or proofreading of corporate-related materials, or just discussing just about anything during the day-to-day meetings with the legal team. One of the best memories I will have of the experience is the welcoming atmosphere created in every single meeting I had with the legal department. They were open, friendly, and treated me like one of their own. It was a shame that the pandemic did not permit these interactions to be in person, but I may only look forward to having the chance to work in a real office in the not-too-distant future.

One may find that an experience like this is transforming for any law student. I was given real files, involved in real issues, and matters seemed to move quickly from one copyright issue to another corporate issue, to government policy, to drafting documents for litigation, to ghost-writing letters for employees from other departments, and even to getting personal advice about the real-estate market. And with these experiences, one learns about every crevice of how a collective agency works, how it feels to work in-house and be involved in civil litigation every day, and most importantly, who are the people behind the profession. With me, the team was open with every matter, expressed themselves honestly and without restraint, and took time to explain the clockwork of each issue in more detail when I requested. It becomes important to realize that these professionals do love their job (most of the time), and a law student has to understand the importance of this to succeed in the profession in the long run. I began to understand it at SOCAN.

Having to be home for this experience was bitter-sweet. The SOCAN team made it sweet by making sure I was technologically equipped for all meetings and I was given access to all electronic resources. Also, of course, I need not mention the ease of my mornings. It was bitter because the tour of the office on the first day of my placement was the only time I got to step foot inside SOCAN’s physical world. But, I believe some misfortunes come with their blessings. I know I will always yearn to personally meet with each colleague from SOCAN one day. I can definitely say I now recognize their electronic voices, pixelated faces, and the inside of their homes. And who knows, maybe, when these difficult times pass in the near future, that day will come.

Written by Sebastian Romanutti, JD Candidate 2021, enrolled in Professors D’Agostino and Vaver 2020/2021 IP & Technology Law Intensive Program at Osgoode Hall Law School. As part of the course requirements, students were asked to write a reflective blog on their internship experience.

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