On behalf of CMRRA, I would like to commend FYI Music for publishing Annie Lin’s article “Music Publishing’s Metadata Problem.” The article correctly points out a number of issues about music publishing, such as that the rights of song owners often go overlooked in public debates about download and streaming services. However, Ms. Lin’s article was specifically geared to the United States music industry. Given FYI Music’s focus on Canada‘s music industry, I would like to take the opportunity to add to the article and provide you a Canadian perspective on the issue.
As you know, CMRRA is a licensing agency that represents the vast majority of Canadian song owners, who range in size from large multinational music publishers to individual songwriters. We issue licences to services that offer music in Canada, including mechanical licences for reproduction on physical media (such as CDs and LPs), as well as licences for online music services. CMRRA has been licensing digital download and streaming services for over a decade. In all that time we have focused on building an expansive database of musical works to ensure that songwriters and music publishers are paid.
Turning specifically to Ms. Lin’s piece, it’s worth noting that the section 115 of the Copyright Act that she mentions is the Copyright Act of the United States. Often referred to as a statutory licensing regime, this system simply does not exist in Canada under our own copyright laws. Instead the Copyright Board of Canada issues tariffs that set royalty rates for various types of uses of music by online services operating in Canada. CMRRA (via a joint venture known as CMRRA-SODRAC Inc., or “CSI”) appears before the Copyright Board in order to set these royalty rates. Services then report to us with data about their usage of songs and pay royalties pursuant to the applicable tariff rate. Here in Canada, the royalties for downloads and streams are calculated as a percentage of their price (currently 9.9% of the price of a download, or 5.18% of the amount paid by a subscriber for steaming services). CSI also has the ability to enter into privately negotiated deals with services.
It’s correct to point out that song metadata is more important than ever in this digital age, but the hunt-and-peck search Ms. Lin describes is not an accurate depiction of the state of music licensing in Canada. Here it is possible for music users to simply turn to CSI to pay for the reproduction a song. CMRRA can then remit the royalties for that use to the correct owner(s) using the vast database we have built over many years of doing business here in Canada.
— Margaret McGuffin | VP Strategy and Business Development
CMRRA (Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency Ltd.)