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It's true: most music is copyrighted, so its use is regulated. Unless the music you play in your business is “in the public domain,” you may need one or more licences, backed up by the Copyright Board of Canada, for it.
Like everything regulated by government, the surrounding rules, penalties and fines can be complicated. Still, you are required to find out which licence(s) apply and pay the required fees. If you don’t, you may have to face the music!
Who do you get licences from?
Canada has two main licensing bodies (there are others): Re:Sound, which represents performing artists, and SOCAN, representing composers, authors and publishers. These bodies collect licensing fees, set by the Copyright Board, from anyone playing or broadcasting live or recorded music and pay royalties to their members.
It is very possible you will need licences from both Re:Sound and SOCAN. The same can be true of other licensing bodies representing still others in the music industry.
Limiting your licence fees
To limit your exposure, you may wish to play music already in the public domain, such as older symphonic productions no longer under copyright. However, be careful, because music systems are also regulated. One owner complained that playing a locally-produced CD, as requested by the local artist triggered a demand for payment from a licensing body. Neither the business nor the artist knew that by supporting a local artist in this way, a third party could demand payment.
Both Re:Sound and SOCAN offer licence fee calculators on their web sites.
Please note that we have had complaints of unnecessary fees being levied on businesses. If you believe that improper charges have been levied by one of the licensing bodies please contact the licensing body in question.