Mediate, don’t litigate

David Basskin has been a lawyer long enough to know that a courtroom is the last place you want to find yourself, no matter how egregiously you may feel you’ve been treated in a civil matter.

“The cost of litigation is sort of like opening a vein, it’s horrible,” says Basskin. “And the outcome, in a smaller market like Canada, is often not significant enough to justify the expense.”

“‘Where there’s a hit, there’s a writ’ is one of the oldest phrases in the recording business.”

Basskin took a few months off after “retiring” as President and CEO of the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency Ltd. (CMRRA) in 2013, but he has no intention of walking away from his life’s work in music and copyright.

“I’m simply not interested in retirement,” says the man who recently established DBCI (David Basskin Consulting Inc.) to mediate, and in some cases, arbitrate disputes on behalf private clients.

Fortunately, copyright and music-related court actions aren’t commonplace in Canada, and many jurisdictions require a mediation process before civil actions will be heard by a judge.

“Mandatory mediation has been imposed by the courts as part of an effort to clear backlogs, which are endemic to the system,” notes Basskin. “A full-tilt civil litigation process can take upwards of five years or longer. Life’s too short.”

Some common music-related legal grievances relate to songwriting share splits, income participation and merchandise rights.

“‘Where there’s a hit, there’s a writ’ is one of the oldest phrases in the recording business,” observes Basskin. ‘If a song makes no money, nothing’s going to get litigated or mediated.

“Mediation or arbitration likely won’t yield what you consider to be the perfect answer,” he concedes, “but believe me, if it goes to court you won’t be getting a perfect result either. And another benefit is that the thing will be done and you can move on with your life.

“Parties who have mediated their way to the resolution of a dispute frequently remain on speaking terms,” he adds, “whereas it’s very difficult to find people who’ve been involved in a fight to the death in court who want to do anything further with each other in the future. And this is a business of collaboration, after all.”

Basskin’s years as a copyright specialist, not to mention additional mediation training, makes him uniquely qualified to help bring warring parties together.

“At the CMRRA, I had to be Switzerland,” he says. “I never took anybody’s side. The idea here is to arrive at a solution faster, cheaper and without the downside of negative publicity. The mediator’s only stake in the process is to make sure that everybody gets heard and that they make an honest effort to deal with the issues. Not every mediation leads to a complete resolution, but it can help clear away some disagreements and leave the parties to focus on the real problem.”