02:36:15 am on
Tuesday 16 Jul 2024

Potatoes & Beans
David Simmonds

You want to hold a parade and have Stompin’ Tom Connors blasting through the speakers on your float. You want to hold a wedding at a public venue and play Shania Twain for the bride and groom to dance too? Well, from now on you’re going to have to pay for it. So much you won’t be able to march or marry any more. At least, that’s what recent articles in the popular press would have you believe. 

From where I sit, in the seats reserved for the unpopular press, I guess, they have it all wrong and it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.  

It all has to do with copyright law, which is a very complex subject. I was the one who brought it up, so it’s my fault if your eyes glaze over at what follows.

If I create a work of music, I own the copyright in it. That means no one can record it, or perform it in public, without my permission. The copyright lasts until 50 years after my death, which explains, to those who notice these things, why so many Hank Williams tribute albums came out starting in 2004. Usually, permission is granted for a fee.

In Canada, an organization called SOCAN has about 95,000 song-creator members, on behalf of whom it collects fees for the public airing of their works. SOCAN applies to something called the Copyright Appeal Board for the right to license and set fees for the use of the music. About 80% of the fees collected go to the creators, who have tended to view this as a good thing, since it helps to put food on the table.

Just to pick an example, if owned a fitness club, I would be required to pay an annual licence fee to SOCAN for the right to play recorded music of $2.14 times the average number of persons per week per room. Radio stations, planes, shopping malls, bars: they all pay a fee to and get a licence from SOCAN. 

What has recently happened is that a collective representing music performers, by the name of Re:Sound, has been authorized to collect fees on a broad swath of public performances of recorded music. Technically, there is no copyright in a performance, so what Re: Sound collects is referred to as “equitable remuneration.”

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

More by David Simmonds:
Tell a Friend

Click above to tell a friend about this article.