Canada Approves New Music Tariffs; Weddings Cost Double If You Dance

from the footloose? dept

The Copyright Board of Canada, which reviews copyright tariffs for various collection societies (like ASCAP and BMI in America, which collect performance licensing fees from venues) has just approved a new set of fees to cover recorded music at a bunch of different live events. Karaoke bars, conventions, parades, weddings and several other classes of event—which already pay fees to SOCAN, which represents songwriters—will now begin paying additional tariffs to collection society Re:Sound, which represents recording artists and labels.

We’ve talked a lot about the problems with the whole idea of the collection society structure in the past, especially the fact that most societies are constantly pushing for higher fees and trying to extract money for ridiculous things, even though they have a poor track record of actually redistributing the money they collect to the artists they supposedly represent. But of course, the people behind the tariff talk it up as a boon for small musicians:

“We are trying to establish tariffs for the remuneration of everybody involved in the music — everybody that has some rights to receive some remuneration,” said Gilles McDougall of the Copyright Association of Canada, adding that the tarriff will likely result in a few million dollars a year for performers.

Re:Sound spokesman Matthew Fortier said the money collected will make a big difference to small operations.

“Sometimes you think of the larger artists or record labels, but most often it goes to small, struggling artists and record labels — we have thousands signed up with us,” he said.

But as Howard Knopf points out, small artists are the last ones to get anything out of a scheme like this. Megastars and their labels can make money—but even that pales in comparison to the real beneficiaries of the tariff:

Sadly, very little of this money through gets to the artists that need it the most. This is because the copyright collective system tracks and rewards commercial success. Celine Dion, U2, Lady Gaga and their record and publishing companies do very well by the this system but emerging creators see very little of this money. The ones who really and consistently benefit the most are those who run the collectives, those who are consultants to the collectives, and the lawyers who punctually pursue new and higher Copyright Board tariffs using money raised from the previous tariffs and paid for ultimately by the Canadian public. Many if not most Copyright Board hearings generate millions of dollars in legal fees in order to generate average annual payments to creators that are typically much less than a junior lawyer’s hourly rate.

As with many such licensing schemes, the specifics of the fees seem almost completely arbitrary. Karaoke bars pay a rate based on nights-per-week, parades pay a different rate per-float, and weddings pay a third rate that for some insane reason gets doubled if the wedding involves dancing.

Some people will look at the fees themselves, which in any singular instance only generally add up to a few hundred dollars at most, and ask what the big deal is. But that’s ignoring the big picture: Canada loves copyright tariffs, and each one serves to shift massive amounts of wealth around, often with little justification and no way of ensuring that the money is being properly distributed. And we just keep piling new tariffs on top of old ones, with no clear idea of how effective they are—except at funnelling money to the collection societies:

It’s true that most people do not tend to get married very often. And many weddings cost $25,000 or more. So, some may not be too concerned about the macro or even microeconomic aspects this particular tariff item. It won’t likely harm Canada’s economy overall or even the institution of marriage.

But these little tariffs add up. The little tariffs such as $0.29 for a blank CD or $5.16 per year for each K-12 student, or $253.45 for a wedding soon add up to about $500 million a year in Canada. One is tempted to say that “A half billion here, a half billion there, pretty soon, you’re talking real money.” Copyright Board tariffs siphon huge sums out of the educational system, the broadcasting and telecom industries, businesses of all kinds that use blank media for ordinary data storage and transfer purposes, etc.

Now we can add this one to the bloated list. And you can guarantee it won’t be long before Re:Sound is back before the Copyright Board, pushing to raise the fees and expand the tariff to new classes of events and venues. Copyright tariffs rarely decrease—even when they absolutely should.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: ascap, bmi, re:sound, socan

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Canada Approves New Music Tariffs; Weddings Cost Double If You Dance”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Rikuo (profile) says:


For the record, if I was Canadian and getting married, I’d dare them to come after me for money they didn’t earn. Go ahead, bob, justify this to me. Justify why a Canadian has to pay double the fee if someone’s leg muscles so much as twitch while they’re standing. How are these collection agencies supposed to know? Will the happy couple now be required by law to videotape every second of their wedding and, by first-class courier (at their own expense of course!) send the videos to the collection agencies? Or will all weddings now need an Official Agency Observer?

bob and other copyright maximilists – THIS IS WHY I AND OTHERS HATE COPYRIGHT. Copyright no longer serves its original purpose, of promoting the progress of science and the useful arts. How is chasing wedding couples for hundreds of dollars supposed to entice someone to write a song? Copyright has now become entirely about extracting as much cash as possible from everyone else, with no benefit in return. Canadian citizens are now being told that not even WEDDINGS are safe from the predations of the copyright tax-man.

Johnny Graham says:

Re: Re:

You can expect a lot more taxes on many things because the rulers of the world industries ,Bankers and politicians just met in Chantilly Virginia at the Bilderberg meeting to discuss how to further their Agenda of one world gov. under the UN,which was created by the Rothschilds and Rockefellers over 50 years ago to form a one world gov.

Kassandra (profile) says:


I am rather curious how they will police the weddings with two different tiers. Will they send someone to every wedding reception to make sure there is no dancing going on? I see giant signs saying “NO DANCING” everywhere around the reception. Certainly puts a damper on the mood that way.

Likely the DJ or whomever is playing the music has to report it properly, but does that mean that the 5 year old dancing with their sister towards the wall automatically double the fees charged, or if a guest bounces slightly with the music that is being played count as dancing? Plus what if the guests just start dancing, even if I didn’t pay for it? Will I then get billed to make sure that no one dances?

Besides, how do you define dancing? What one person defines as dancing I could say is just two people holding each other that just happen to be moving with the music.

Anonymous Coward says:

i wonder how long it would be before these agencies etc started to complain if no one actually played music any more? do you think a boycott of a day, a week, a month might do? i thought that music was produced by people that wanted to in order to help make other people happy etc. rather, it now seems like the only reasons are to ensure that money is siphoned from as many as possible and goes to as few as possible and if it can, by-pass those that created it in the first place.

Anonymous Coward says:

What government unit has the right to tax you?

The real reason for the music tax and global warming.

Washington Times
RAHN: Taxation goes global
Distant bureaucrats want your money with little accountability

What government unit has the right to tax you – your local government, regional or state government, federal government or multinational organizations, such as the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Health Organization? The reason the question is becoming more important is that rising numbers of politically powerful persons and institutions are calling for global taxes on such things as financial transactions, tobacco, sugar and carbon emissions.

Anonymous Coward says:

I was just strolling through when I found this.


1 week, 4 days ago (today Jun 5, 2012)

Legal Question

I downloaded a wind.wav sound from user ERH (with a creative commons licence) here a year and a half ago (2010). I used it as a backgound sound in a short film I made. Now IODA is claiming that it is the copyright material of a band called Horrendous, because they use it in a song from their 2012 album, and that I owe them advertising rights. If that’s the case than any sound I use on here is going to enslave me to anyone who claims is it as their sound. What do you suggest?


Now wouldn’t be wonderful to have that bands song removed from the internet because they are violating a free license, oh the irony.

Anybody thinks that band has 150 thousand dollars to pay up?

Anonymous Coward says:

But… think of the artists!

Imagine the pain you would feel if a couple pays you $100 to play your music at their wedding. Everything SEEMS fine so far, but then you learn a week later that to your horror people were DANCING to your music!

OH NOES!!! OMG!!! You didn’t write your music for a stupid young couple and their family & friends to dance to it! The horror at the thought of all those EVIL people dancing to your music will surely keep you up at night for the rest of your life! Dancing is evil, that’s why some theocracies used to ban it centuries ago! You aided and abetted their EVIL CRIME of DANCING, surely your soul will burn in Hell for this! You feel victimized, yet the police won’t do anything about this DANCING to your music!

You feel so victimized by their dancing that you stop writing music! So then EVERYONE LOSES!!!

But… if the married couple had paid you DOUBLE for the right to do their EVIL act of DANCING to your music, well then your conscious is soothed of all the troubling thoughts of people dancing to your music. Then you’ll be encouraged to keep making more music, since after all, if they paid you DOUBLE to dance to your music how evil could their dancing possibly be?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: But... think of the artists!

Oh knock it off with your “evil dancing” shit. And quit hitting your caps lock. Like you said, it’s been centuries since some minor theocracies forbid dancing, so quit dragging up the distant past and trying to use it as an argument today. It only clouds the facts that this is about corporate greed getting greedier, not about fringe cults from 900 years ago coming back to life. You sound ridiculous, and you’re not helping to fight the CBoC, Re:Sound, SOCAN, or corporate greed with those accusations.

Michael says:

I’d DJ my own wedding and not pay the mafia so much as a penny.

What’s next, gotta pay someone to listen to music at home? Who comes up with these bogus stipulations, anyway? And why would anyone be stupid enough to actually pay? I’d refuse. What are they gonna do, arrest me for listening to music? *Pfft* Come try it.

gorehound (profile) says:

Haha ! Any Artist who signs with MAFIAA Organizations are not only traitors but they can get what they deserve which is RIPPED OFF.
Artists stop selling out for pennies and control your own Destiny.
I have never gone near a MAFIAA, never dreamed of it, and never would do it even if offered huge gobs of Cash.
And yes I have been playing in Bands since summer 1972, am an original 1976 punk, and still am involved with punk.
I do two bands Big Meat Hammer, and The Lynn Rebels.
MAFIAA my dog needs its Butt Cleaned.Please come over and lick it clean.

Anonymous Coward says:


You just can’t enjoy music anymore.
You buy a CD, you like it, you want to play it at your wedding… Well you need to pay an extra fee!

I won’t be paying them a cent when I get married. I dare anyone to come to me and demand money for playing music I purchased.
And demanding money because I danced is a violation of my basic rights as a human being (it’s my body, I do what I want with it and I don’t need to pay anyone money for it) and I will defend that right aggressively.
I’ll pay them their extortion money, punch them in the face and tell them it’s part of the dancing, which I’m now legally allowed to do since I paid them. I hope they’re prepared for that one.

We need a revolution to take care of corrupt politicians and the media mafia. I don’t see what else will help at this point.

CN (profile) says:

Big difference to small operations...

the money collected will make a big difference to small operations.

Yes, I am sure it will. Small operations will cease to exist due to not being able to afford these ridiculous fees.

Kassandra: I am rather curious how they will police the weddings with two different tiers. Will they send someone to every wedding reception to make sure there is no dancing going on?

Most likely as with other venues that play non-member original music only have to pay fees anyway because at some point they “just might play something covered”, you will probably always have to pay the higher fee because “someone might dance” even if they weren’t supposed to.

Dog On a Teflon Floor (profile) says:


According to the boards reasoning #1 is:

“The use of recorded music is popular at
sporting events, concert performances, festivals
and fairs, parades, circuses and many other types
of public entertainment. Authors of this music
have been paid royalties for decades; performers
and makers of sound recordings have yet to
receive any compensation in this respect”.

All I can say is huh? Don’t DJ’s, etc already pay for the recordings? How could they possibly not receive any compensation?
If they don’t, they probably should look at the collection societies for some dysfunction or at least talk to someone who understands business..

Anonymous Coward says:

Hey! I know how this helps small time artists! Given these ridiculous fees and restrictions I’d rather pay talented local struggling artists that I know play awesome live music on the cheap than get the honor of paying out the nose for a digital recording of music to line the pockets of corporate fat cats that can’t read sheet music.

Sean (profile) says:

Dancing fee's

Well I guess we all live in the US mid-west where God is out to get you heathen dancers. Personally I already paid for my cd’s I have over 800 and I will not pay to dance at my wedding listening to my music. Screw harpo and his religious freaks. Send the cops to my door I will fight this to the top. oh and screw the music industry I will only get music online for free. Fuck-em all.

gelectr (profile) says:

Re: Dancing fee's

Funny how you use recording company greed to further your militant atheist views. This has nothing to do with “heathen dancers” or religion, very little to do with Harper, but much more to do with record company greed, the *unelected* Copyright Board of Canada, and unaccountability in the music industry.
BTW, how come you say you bought over 800 CDs, but only get your music “online for free”? Busted.
That being said, I agree with your last sentence.

preciousillusion (profile) says:

Let’s say that I own a bar for instance. I have bought tables, chairs, kitchenware etc. and maybe some art for decoration. If the stuff that I bought meets or (even better) exceeds my expectations, chances are that I will be a returning customer and even recommend their products to others. Hopefully I can deliver good service and then I get returning customers. The economy keeps spinning.
But wait, something is missing.. Oh yes, I want to play music in my bar, that would be nice! So I head out and BUY some CDs (oldschool style) or purchase it from iTunes and everybody is happy!
Well, not everybody it turns out.. Here comes legacy, soon-to-be-exctingt music industry knocking on the door crying “So you want to play the music you just paid for, we have a fee for that” (somehow I come to think of Gollum here) But I just paid for the music!!! “Well, you have to pay again. And again. Forever” But.. “No but, just pay”
Where’s the freaking logic behind that?
That’s right, there is none. And since they’re going to make me pay for giving free promotion to their products I already paid for I say fuck you very much and hello Pirate bay!
Luckily the manufacturer of my furniture doesn’t come whining “You never said anything about people eating from our tables! Pay again”

canadalaw says:

this is absolute tripe

This article demonstrates a completely ignorant understanding of copyright law.

First, it isn’t ‘another tariff’ in the sense you’ve described. Hosts already pay a tariff, based on the same metrics to SOCAN. That goes to the people who wrote the song. Re:Sound will collect for those who perform it. As you should know, they are often different people.

Second, people seem to think that they can say ‘I’m not paying, let’s see the copyright police show up’. Too bad for you (the bride or groom, you don’t have that option. The royalty is paid by the owners of the venue. If they have weddings, it’ll be included in your fee. All of them will include that charge.

Third, dancing is merely a metric. Its not perfect, but its more practical than you think. That tariff applies to everything from reception halls, convention rooms, lots of things. If I have a reception where there is just background music playing,like that annoying elevator type music, should I be paying the same tariff as an event with a DJ? The music is only incidental in the first scenario.

This is absolute tripe. Get real

Bev A (profile) says:

How is a wedding a public event???

So I understand that ASCAP has the legal right to collect licensing fees to cover any music in their repertoire that is publicly performed. But, ASCAP does not have a right to licensing fees when there is no PUBLIC performance. ASCAP itself says: A public performance is one that occurs “in a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered.”

Even if the bride and groom rent a hall for their wedding, for the duration of their rental contract, that hall is NOT a place “open ot the public.” It is no more open to the public than my rental apartment is open to the public. Likewise, a store may be open to the public but after hours, when the shop is closed, it is NOT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. Open to the public has to mean that “anyone can come in” with or without an invitation. Thus, for the duration of the rental of the hall for a private event, the hall is open ONLY to those who are INVITED guests.

And, I don’t know about most of you but I certainly did NOT have a “substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of family and it social acquaintances” at my wedding. Every single person at my wedding was either a family member, a close friend of a family member, or at the very least, some a social acquaintance of one or more of my family members.

Even if one has a very large wedding and therefore decides to hire help (caterers, waitpersons, etc.) these people do not make up a “substantial number of persons” …certainly NOT in comparison to the number of family members and friends at the wedding. And besides, the hired help is NOT there to listen to the music or dance to it anyway! The music is certainly NOT being performed in order to entertain the hired help in any way.

Maybe if the bride or groom is a member of the royal family or a politician or some other big name media star, there may be enough reporters and hired security people on hand to justify saying that the wedding is “public.” But for the wedding of your average everyday bride and groom, the wedding is a private event attended only by members of the family and the family’s social acquaintance. ERGO, NO PUBLIC PERFORMANCE therefore NO LICENSING FEES DUE.

ASCAP is overreaching to even try to claim that they can collect performance licensing fees on weddings in general.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...