CMRRA, the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency, recently wrote to the Toronto Star and the Hill Times to respond to one of my columns which focused on the lobbying and denial of licensing effort to stop cheaper public domain recordings from entering the Canadian market. The column reported that CMRRA had issued a “pay as you press” licence for the recordings to ensure that creators were paid for the works still in copyright. CMRRA was later ordered to stop issuing the licence.
CMRRA writes that the column’s statement that record labels ordered the denial of licences is “patently false”. Dig deeper into the letter and it becomes clear that CMRRA confirms that it denied the licence, but takes issue with the claim that it was record labels that ordered it to do so. In the case of the Beatles recordings, it was Sony/ATV, which is jointly owned by Sony and the Michael Jackson Estate that ordered the denial of licence. Sony also owns one of the world’s largest record labels.
Beyond the clarification that it was Sony/ATV, not Sony Music that issued the order, the CMRRA letter confirms the key points in the column. First, it confirms that there was denial of licence as it states that it was instructed “to refrain from issuing licences for certain products that had either recently been, or were about to be, released in Canada”. Second, it confirms that the denial of licence results in less revenue for songwriters, noting “as for the copyright owners of the songs embodied in those master recordings – that is, the songwriters and/or music publishers – it is their own choice to refuse to grant such licences and forego any potential associated revenue.”