Copyrights & The Cobra Pose: Flexing My Musical Muscles at SOCAN (IP Intensive Reflection)

Samantha Melhado is an IP Intensive student and a 3L JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School. As part of the course requirements, students were asked to write a reflective blog on their internship experience.

The  Society  of  Composers,  Authors  and  Music  Publishers  of  Canada  (“SOCAN”), protects the performing and reproduction rights of more than 160,000 songwriters, music publishers, composers and visual artists. As one example, think of the background music you enjoy at your favourite restaurant. With a SOCAN license, businesses comply with copyright laws and may play songs that are part of SOCAN’s repertoire while supporting the creators of that music.

After reading the title you might be wondering, what does the cobra pose have to do with copyrights? During my very first week I was introduced to how wellness is successfully integrated into the fabric of SOCAN’s organizational culture. From presentations on the science of work-life balance, to active lunch breaks, at SOCAN I channeled my inner yogi while entering the world of rights management and licensing.

It’s been said that “there is no such thing as the perfect time,” with the IP & Technology Intensive however, there is. This program is purposefully designed for students in the final year of their legal education. The best part about the timing of the Intensive is that everything comes full circle. While at SOCAN, I was able to connect the dots between what I learned in 1L, e.g. remedies for breach of contract, and apply those concepts to live agreements. Whether I was crafting a termination clause or reviewing a sponsorship contract, I began to develop my own drafting technique and style. This experiential component created space for me to shine and confidently rely on the knowledge I’ve gained throughout my law school journey before transitioning out of student life and into practice.

When attending my weekly check-ins, I was consistently encouraged to express my areas of interest and objectives for my time at SOCAN. I appreciate that I could take initiative and truly customize my experience. One of my goals was to gain exposure to the synergy between the legal team and other branches, such as SOCAN’s membership group. It was neat to sit in on meetings and observe how the lawyers leverage case law research to manage risk and present strategic options to the queries of various departments.

Surprisingly, I dabbled in quite a few non-copyright specific projects. For instance, I verified procedures and timelines required for the retention of corporate records and financial statements. I had the opportunity to analyze statutes I haven’t previously encountered, including the Employer Health Tax Act, that I otherwise may not have had the chance to explore. In addition to dissecting legislation, I also dove headfirst into obstacles facing artists globally. As streaming services propose the “lowest royalty rates in history,” achieving equitable remuneration for music creators is an important mission. To investigate this issue, one day you might travel to the US Copyright Royalty Board’s website and review the evolution of digital audio rates and the next week you’ll immerse yourself into the economics of music streaming in the UK. I value the variety of work I was exposed to that allowed me to diversify my skillset.

One of my most memorable moments was attending a guest speaker event discussing possible solutions to make the creative industries more inclusive for Indigenous artists and professionals. The webinar concluded with a performance by SOCAN member William Prince, winner of the 2020 SOCAN Songwriting Prize and JUNO-Awarding winning singer-songwriter from the Peguis First Nation in Manitoba. It was such a treat to hear William sing live – a highlight I will always remember!

Thank you to everyone in the IP Osgoode community and SOCAN that make this program possible. While it is bittersweet to pass the torch to the next intern, I know they’ll have a blast as they too flex their musical muscles at SOCAN.

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