What are SOCAN and SODRAC?

BY Allison OuthitPublished Jul 2, 2012

My question concerns of copyrighting and its proclaimed officiating bodies and organs, and its effects and affects, in Canada, and further on the line internationally. [Investigating] institutions known as SOCAN/SODRAC, I couldn't help but to feel some ambiguous yet obvious nagging unease with seemingly being obliged to rely on these institutions in any kind of way with their banal and Byzantine-like bureaucracy just to function as a musician. Can you give me the simple and succinct short-story on these institutions' functions and validity, and if there are any alternatives to having to kowtow to them yet still protect one's music in necessitating situations? Perhaps I'm reactionary in my distrust of bureaucracy, but I just can't help sense an elusive smell of a polite exclusionary "our-way-or-the-highway-ism."

I think your question is "What are SOCAN and SODRAC?" So, it's this: according to Canadian law, music composers have the first exclusive right to decide what happens with their compositions ― whether they can be recorded or played on the radio, or sold or downloaded or reproduced or used in a TV show or given away for free ― and all of those rights, plus a few more, equal "copyright." Canadian law also states that radio stations, TV channels, skating rinks, elevators and other people who "publicly perform" music (in the sense of broadcasting to the public) have to pay a license fee for the privilege of using copyrighted music in their broadcasts. In Canada, those license fees get paid to SOCAN, the so-called "performance royalty organization" that got its feet in the door when it was being decided who should get this money back in the 1940s (I think!). SODRAC, which is based in Quebec, is a PRO that collectively licenses the reproduction rights (which are different than performance rights) to copyrighted music. Both SOCAN and SODRAC are non-profit organizations made up of songwriters, composers, and publishers. A couple times a year, each PRO distributes the fees it has collected, in the form of publishing royalties, to its members. It's free to be a member of either organization. If you have songs playing on the radio and you are not a SOCAN or SODRAC member, you are losing money, end of story. Can you still "protect your music" without being a member? Depends on what you mean by "protect." Your music is protected by copyright from the moment it is written, whether you like it or not. Organizations like SOCAN and SODRAC, in addition to collecting and paying out royalties, represent copyright owners at government hearings and in court cases, to make sure that other businesses don't get away with using copyrighted music for free. Both SOCAN and SODRAC always need passionate members to work with them on making new policies and so on. You'd be great!

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