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  • May 5th, 2017 4:59 pm
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[OP]
Deal Addict
Sep 23, 2007
4147 posts
660 upvotes

SOCAN Music License. Seriously?

So I have a physical store and play radio music. This organization called SOCAN has been harassing us saying we're not supposed to play music and that we're supposed to pay a license fee. My thoughts are "WTF"? I can't play public radio in my store? They sent us a letter claiming they will take "legal action". They have done very little to communicate with us aside from sending us this letter. Do they have a case or are they just trying to scare us into paying their fees?

I asked the guy to explain to me what regulation exactly I'm violating. The guy fails to cite anything. From reading SOCAN website they seem like a real organization? Or is it some kind of hoax? I feel very skeptical when a guy says I'm doing something illegal but fails to cite any law from official sources. Anyone else have experience with this organization?

P.S. I have done my research and don't think I'm violating anything by playing PUBLIC radio in my store. If this is a violation, then is it a violation when I play radio for my family while driving? I heard if I have less than 4 speakers I'm not bound by their rules. Still...the way SOCAN rep has conducted this affair is full of BS. I want to file a complaint somewhere. It sounds to me like this organization has no legitimate business and just wants to cower small businesses into paying them fees. Small businesses have enough crap to deal with.
17 replies
Jr. Member
May 29, 2011
171 posts
119 upvotes
There is a reason that major retail chains spend thousands of dollars, and in some cases millions, on licenses to play music in their stores.

There is a clear distinction in the radio example you describe - in the case of playing the radio while driving withy our family that would be personal consumption. However the minute you start to play that same radio station in a place of business it is commercial consumption. Technically most radio stations are only paying the artists they feature a royalty based on a consumer audience.

Hopefully that helps, good luck.
Newbie
Aug 2, 2010
22 posts
3 upvotes
0
They are real. Depending of what type of business it is and assuming you have under 5 speakers I believe, you'll likely be fine to play FM radio and can tell them to lick your nuts. Online and/or Sat radio however will require a licence. You can look up all the requirements online. You could just ignore them and the bills they send as the chances of them taking you to court is practically nill. You will also be having to deal with another company, Re:Sound, with the same requirements. They will contact you soon if they haven't already.
Deal Addict
Jul 21, 2004
1054 posts
63 upvotes
radio is fine. because radio station already paid license to broadcast. however, as long as you business doesn't directly generate income from the music you play.

Tell them stop harassing you unless they have a case law behind them. record time and date they bug you. and file an harassment law suit due to lost income from time spent dealing with them and undue distress. j/k
[OP]
Deal Addict
Sep 23, 2007
4147 posts
660 upvotes
Thanks all. I will ignore this guy and tell him to f*** off. I have only 2 speakers and play FM radio.

What a scummy organization. So called "non-profit". More like "purely for profit".
Sr. Member
Feb 25, 2007
882 posts
344 upvotes
Ottawa
OP, seems like they're doing a poor job communicating with you, and ascertaining whether you do indeed need to pay a fee, but I wouldn't call them scummy.
For better or worse, if you play music publicly for commercial purposes, even as background music, Socan and Re:Sound are the organizations mandated to collect the royalties that are due to songwriters, publishers, etc.
There is a fairly informative article at http://smallbusinessbc.ca/article/socan ... need-know/, even though clearly written for a BC audience, and doubtless with content/message supplied by the Socan folks.

So they're more like municipal property taxes, which you may get mad how high they are and how they're calculated, but fundamentally are an integral and up-and-up part of living in Canada, than like scammers that try to get you to pay for directory listings etc that you don't need. I'm not 100% sure, but I think they are non-profit in so far there is no "owner of Socan" scooping up the money - it is being paid to the composers, publishers, etc, whose music is (on average by all those licensed) being played.

Ergo - you probably don't need to pay given your specific circumstances, but no need to get your blood pressure up on scummy/scamminess!
Deal Fanatic
Dec 27, 2013
5911 posts
2021 upvotes
Toronto
how much is it?
Newbie
Apr 11, 2017
5 posts
9 upvotes
Just to be clear... I do not work for and I am in no way affiliated with SOCAN or re:SOUND. SOCAN and re:sound collect fees and tariffs to distribute to artists in Canada. Both SOCAN and re:SOUND are non for profits the fees that they collect are then distributed to Music Producers, agencies, performers and songwriters.

What I am is a business owner as well who deals with SOCAN on a regular basis I run A karaoke show production company in Brampton and we are not only a registered business having a Master Business License from Ontario and Pay SOCAN fees when needed since all establishments that play music must be Licensed to Play with SOCAN which stands for the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada be it background music, live performances, karaoke... there a different licenses for different types of venues and events... example for me for Karaoke in a Bar or Pub it is the Bars responsibility to make sure they are Licensed to Play for any type of music IE they play music via Terrestrial radio (IE. traditional radio stations like Virgin 99.9 and even talk radio like CFRB 1010, Over satellite Radio (Sirius/XM), Internet Radio (iHeart Radio) (Services such as Spotify or iTUNES/APPLE music, YOUTUBE OR OTHER STREAMING AUDIO/VIDEO SITES ARE NOT LICENSED FOR PUBLIC OR COMMERCIAL USE if you are a business using these you can be fined for copyright violations) or have TV on MUSIC stations you MUST Pay one fee for pre recored music and one for Karaoke Performances or DJ performances OR Live Band. You can for most if you are doing a one off get a single licenses. There are also sliding fees depending on perfromance type (DJ, Karaoke, Band) how often a week you have either, venue capacity, etc.

That said BananaHunter... You are LEGALLY required to pay SOCAN fee's if you are broadcasting ANY music in your establishment this includes any Per-recorded music (CD, Digital files), TV or Radio in your store EVEN if it hs nothing to do with you business or stock and is JUST background or silence killer...

There are NO exceptions for commercial establishments. You are not under a shake down from a shady organization I am surprised that you have never heard of SOCAN re:SOUND I get as I was not aware of them till establishing my business and doing my diligence in what I need to legally do to operate. SOCAN was established in 1990.

@koft you are very wrong... Radio Stations both Terrestrial and Satellite pay SOCAN fees yes but they pay under a different license then establishments that rebroadcast their signal. AND it does not matter if you directly profit from the broadcast of music.

@koft They have the law behind them and case law CBC - SOCAN Sues Dentist SOCAN Sues/Seeks tariffs from YouTube , Facebook, Netflix, Etc. Canadian Copyright Laws enable to collection of these fees

@BananaHunter Define Harassment.. what are they doing... are they calling every day? Multiple times a day? Dropping in you location and unreasonable amount of times (how often)? Harassing you at Home? Harassing your customers/Employees? Trying to turn off you audio? Sending you endless letter (how often)?

Simply telling them to F-off is not the answer and will get you in more trouble then it's worth... if you are reasonable with them they will be reasonable with you... explain to them you were unaware of these licenses and you would like to work with them to resolve the issue...

SOCAN will absolutely take legal action including lawsuits ans going to court against those that are not paying fees... SOCAN is very much the Canadian equivalent to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and other PRO's such as BMI, ASCAP, etc. in the states and as with the US Canada has very similar Copyright Law for licensing and as a signatory to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

@sweatypickle there is no minimum number of speaker exception if music is played in a public area of an establishment you need to pay fees a Public area would be A sales floor, the dinning room of a restaurant. You could have a radio in say the staff room and not pay fees or in the restaurant kitchen and not pay... as long as the radio is NOT clearly audible in public area's.

Definatly visit and READ the link that @houska mentioned in their comment...

@daivey fees are factor based you can use the forms and tariffs calculator here to see what you would need to pay most are annual fees some have one off event fees such as concerts.

Kevin Crane
Owner - Karaoke Jockey/Specialist
Big Bang Karaoke Services
Brampton, Ontario
Deal Addict
User avatar
Mar 23, 2008
4104 posts
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Edmonton
KevinCrane wrote:
Apr 12th, 2017 9:35 pm

@sweatypickle there is no minimum number of speaker exception if music is played in a public area of an establishment you need to pay fees a Public area would be A sales floor, the dinning room of a restaurant. You could have a radio in say the staff room and not pay fees or in the restaurant kitchen and not pay... as long as the radio is NOT clearly audible in public area's.

Definatly visit and READ the link that @houska mentioned in their comment...
From the link houska posted... Comments on the bolded section?
Tariff 15A

Tariff 15A is an annual blanket license that allows you to play background music for the public in your establishment. Licensees have to purchase their own music, such as CDs, digital downloads, Internet-based radio, or TV. This license also covers the use of music in videos shown to the public.

Please note that a SOCAN license is not required if playing regular (non-Internet) AM/FM radio for the public on four or less speakers at your place of business.

The annual fee for Tariff 15A will be based on the size of the area accessible to the public.
C
Deal Addict
Jun 17, 2013
3763 posts
714 upvotes
Halifax
CNeufeld wrote:
Apr 13th, 2017 10:01 am
From the link houska posted... Comments on the bolded section?



C
Sounds like you just need 4 REAAAALLY big speakers.
Newbie
Apr 11, 2017
5 posts
9 upvotes
CNeufeld wrote:
Apr 13th, 2017 10:01 am
Tariff 15A

Tariff 15A is an annual blanket license that allows you to play background music for the public in your establishment. Licensees have to purchase their own music, such as CDs, digital downloads, Internet-based radio, or TV. This license also covers the use of music in videos shown to the public.

Please note that a SOCAN license is not required if playing regular (non-Internet) AM/FM radio for the public on four or less speakers at your place of business.

The annual fee for Tariff 15A will be based on the size of the area accessible to the public.
There is NO regulations on Tariff 15A regarding number of speakers nor Terrestrial radio exception after reading with a fine tooth comb the article again I take back that it is a good source of information on SOCAN fees and license it is very much out of date or the writer is very much misinformed!!

The only possible exemption given is for those that use a music source IE a CD or DJ pool such as Promo Only (NOTE Promo Only is a exclusive service for music professionals such as DJ's and Radio and not available to the general public or Non-music related businesses and you must prove that you work in a commercial music capacity to join this or other similar DJ music Pools and signed a contract with them) OR some Jukebox suppliers have built in SOCAN/re:SOUND licenses built in to their music which you pay for though their rental or music supply fees.

to quote SOCAN's INFOcard for tariff 15A:
If the music used is provided by a music supplier, you may not need a SOCAN license for that use. Please contact us to ensure you are covered.
I deal with SOCAN an a regular basis! Admittedly not under tariff 15A. But I am always calling them and asking questions regarding licensing for events if I need one what one... If ever in doubt I go directly to the source!

I would advise people to take only one real bit of advice away from these forums... IF IN DOUBT CONTACT THE AGENCY THAT DEALS WITH ANY LICENSING FOR BUSINESS DIRECTLY BE IT SOCAN, re:SOUND, LLBO, THE GOVERNMENT, ETC. AND ASK...
Penalty Box
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Dec 16, 2015
577 posts
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So we are paying for those zillion times of "is it too late to say sorry.." you hear everywhere in public places...
Deal Addict
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Apr 19, 2002
2055 posts
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Calgary
Is it okay to play the radio in say a staff room without a license, or would staff need to listen to their own personal radios/MP3s/iTunes with earbuds on to avoid fees?
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