Heads-up For Local Businesses: SOCAN is Coming to Town!

Local businesses be aware: The Society Of Composers, Authors And Music Publishers Of Canada (SOCAN), the licensing organization for music in Canada, is coming to Peterborough.

As recently reported by the Peterborough Chamber Of Commerce and the DBIA, a SOCAN agent will be stalking the streets of Peterborough in the next two weeks looking for any business (especially retail) playing music (even background music) without paying the appropriate license fees. Any business playing unlicensed music could be slammed with heavy fines for copyright infringement – because clearly, the best strategy to save the music industry is to go after the small local businesses who are still supporting it.

Here’s what the DBIA has to say about it:

Please be aware that an agent of the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) will be working in the Peterborough area in the next two weeks. SOCAN informed the DBIA of the visit. We understand the agent, Philippe Girouard, will focus on retail stores.

This has potential financial implications for businesses that play music from anything other than radio stations in their stores but aren’t paying SOCAN fees. There is no fee for playing the radio in stores or workplaces as the radio stations pay the SOCAN fees.

If the SOCAN agent discovers a store playing music off a CD or MP3 player, such as an iPod, without paying fees to the organization, the organization could send a bill to the retailer.

Under the examples provided by SOCAN, a 100-square-metre (1,076-square-foot) store that uses CDs to play background music for its customers needs to pay an annual fee of $123 plus tax to SOCAN. An 800-square-foot (74-square-metre) restaurant using MP3s to play background music would need to pay an annual fee of $94.51 plus tax.

Please see the attached SOCAN tariff card to work out what the fees could mean for your business.

The DBIA contacted SOCAN for clarification on some issues surrounding its fees. Here’s what we learned:

– The tariffs are equal across Canada. It’s the same per-square-metre rate for a store in Peterborough and a store in Toronto. They don’t take into account the difference in traffic through the store.

– If a store exclusively plays the radio, it is exempt from SOCAN fees.

– If a store plays music via Internet radio, a SOCAN fee would apply.

– If a store exclusively plays music of a local musician whose music hasn’t been registered with SOCAN, they are exempt from SOCAN fees. However, if the store plays a single song that’s in SOCAN’s catalogue then a SOCAN licence is required.

– A SOCAN licence is not required for stores or workplaces playing music through a satellite provider if they have a commercial agreement with that satellite provider.

– The fee for tariff 15A, which covers the playing of background music in retail stores and restaurants, is based on the square footage that’s accessible to the public.

Find out more about business licenses in SOCAN’s licensing FAQ.

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