Quebec musical artists claim SOCAN owes them $2 million

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Quebec songwriters are claiming $ 2 million which they say was cheated by the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) for 18 months of royalties between 2019 and 2021.

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SOCAN receives royalties from radio stations and distributes the money to copyright holders when those stations play their songs.

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But French-speaking songwriters and composers say a mistake in the redistribution model has unfairly favored English-speaking artists from the rest of the country.

“For a period of at least 18 months, there was an imbalance between the amounts paid by Quebec radio stations and the royalties that were distributed to songwriters whose works were broadcast on Quebec radio stations,” explained editor David Murphy. “This imbalance corresponded to a difference of 45% according to SOCAN figures.

Murphy, whose company specializes in the management of music rights, will file an application for authorization of a class action on behalf of Quebec artists “in late September or early October”.

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A dozen Quebec songwriters, including Gilles Vigneault, Coeur de Pirate, Vincent Vallières, Elisapie, Ariane Moffatt and Klô Pelgag have signed an open letter denouncing SOCAN’s calculations that they say stripped them of their just royalties .

“It is clear that Quebec has been under-represented for several years in SOCAN’s distribution methods,” they write. “Our culture can only live if all creators receive without compromise from their rights management body all the royalties to which they are entitled.”

According to Murphy’s calculations, endorsed by two independent economists, the error meant that “for every dollar paid by Quebec broadcasters, 55 cents went to the creators whose works were broadcast on these stations.” The remaining 45 cents were shared by authors, composers and publishers whose works were distributed outside Quebec.

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He said in SOCAN’s calculations, “maybe nine or 10% of the 200 stations were in Quebec, while Quebec represents 20, 22 or 23% of Canadian license fees.” So the fact that Quebec radio stations are under-represented in the pool has resulted in rights holders being harmed.

The class action lawsuit does not seek to recover the extra money given to other artists, he said, because it was not their fault.

SOCAN can’t pretend it didn’t know, Murphy said, because it saw the error and revised its methodology in November 2021. “The actions, to me, speak for themselves. “

He said artists noticed a significant increase in royalty payments after the overhaul.

Although the request is for compensation for 18 months, it is possible that the problem goes back further. “The two economists who analyzed our figures believe that it is very possible that the losses are spread over a longer period. We’ll see when we ask SOCAN because for the moment we don’t have this data.

Murphy noted that a similar problem occurred 10 years ago. “SOCAN recognized that Quebec in 2012 was under-represented and told us that it had made changes, corrections, but that it had not paid any compensation.

Now, he says, “we’re playing in the exact same movie, except now SOCAN doesn’t recognize that Quebec creators have been harmed, but it’s the exact same movie. At some point, you have to say no, give up and say: we want creators and publishers to be paid.

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