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Copyright Knowledge

Make sure your event has the rights stuff 

By Astrid Van Den Broek

You want to kick off your event with “Stadium Love.” But do you need to contact Metric to get the rights? Or can you just fire up your iTunes?

When it comes to giving meetings some punch, there’s no doubt that hot tunes and eye-catching photos and video clips can grab your audience’s attention. However, violating copy and other intellectual rights can get you into trouble. “Content is more readily available than ever because the Internet supplies a steady stream of good quality content that’s easily accessible,” says Jessica Zagar, legal counsel for Access Copyright, a Toronto-based organization representing creators and publishers. “However, the ease with which content can be downloaded sometimes masks the need to ask for permission first.” Here's what you need to know about getting permission to use these works at your events.

Know what needs to be covered
Works that need rights clearances include poems, plays, music scores, photos, company logos in certain instances and clip art images. “And copyright is attached to works irrespective of where they are found, whether it’s on the Internet or in a book, etc.,” says Zagar.

Be aware of the risks
Violating copyright could embarrass you professionally and hurt you legally. “You can be sued for violating copyright law,” says Andrea Kokonis, associate general counsel for Toronto-based Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN). However, if you use something without authorization, you may just receive a demand letter. “But monetary compensation can also be involved,” adds Kokonis.

Don't be afraid of fees
Fees vary depending on how the works will be used and other factors, but they’re likely cheaper than you think. “For example, for a corporate meeting wanting to use music, the license covering the entire event could run $20-$90 without dancing and then up to about $175 if there is dancing at the event,” notes Kokonis. (Need a better idea of costs? SOCAN has a fees calculator at Also, not all works need clearance so you may be surprised. “The Copyright Act contains a number of exceptions that may allow you to use content for a specific purpose without getting permission,” adds Zagar.

Get Guidance
Can’t locate the author or the photographer whose work you want to use? Both Access Copyright ( and SOCAN ( can help get rights. The organizations also recommend giving yourself time to get clearance, though it can be done in a day if needed.

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