As a SOCAN member, is your music being used in an on-screen production, broadcast on TV, in movies, or on audiovisual streaming services? Are you already collecting performance royalties for that screen production use? If so, it’s time to start collecting AV post-sync (audiovisual post-synchronization) royalties to add to the value of your music – and increase your royalty payments.

 To better understand and benefit from your AV post-sync rights, we asked Martin Lavallée, SOCAN’s Head of Reproduction Rights, to answer some key questions.

What are AV post-sync (audiovisual post-synchronization) rights?
AV post-sync (audiovisual post-synchronization) rights are those for the digital server copies of movies, TV shows, and other productions, made by broadcasters or online platforms for offline viewing, and where on-demand functions like rewind and fast-forward are used. They refer to any reproductions that are made by any digital AV platform or TV broadcaster of the screen production in which your music is already embedded. Essentially, it’s the reproduction rights for any copy they make of any screen production in order to be able to broadcast or stream it digitally.

What’s the difference between synchronization (sync) and post-synchronization (post-sync) rights?
They are very different rights, and the licenses are paid by different organizations.

Sync rights are usually handled by the producer of a movie or TV show. This is the team that’s sync-ing (synchronizing) music to images in a TV show or movie – whether it’s a new song or composition created for a specific scene, or a pre-existing song or composition being used in the production. The money for this usually comes from the production budget of the movie or TV show.

Post-sync rights come into play once the final screen production, including all of the music embedded in it, is given to the broadcaster or audiovisual streaming platform – like Netflix, AppleTV+, Disney+, Illico, Crave, etc. Because this right occurs after the production is complete, a music rights collective, like SOCAN, is the entity that licenses them – not the producer. The audiovisual streaming services put the production onto a server, where their customers access them for viewing. They’re also able to make temporary copies onto their devices for later viewing, with on-demand functions like pause, rewind, and fast-forward. For all of this to happen, in each case, the audiovisual streaming platform has to make a digital copy of the production. You can use those functions because the movie or TV show has been copied into a memory cache. It’s not a download, but it’s a kind of quasi-permanent copy.  Because of the advocacy of SOCAN, that copy was recognized and affirmed at the Supreme Court of Canada as being subject to reproduction rights. This right doesn’t exist in the U.S., but it is recognized all over the world.

Are publishers already collecting AV post-sync royalties?
Even though the AV post-sync right has been around since 1992, and the Supreme Court of Canada re-affirmed it in 2014, a lot of our rights holders are only beginning to realize and understand the value of this complementary revenue stream, one that exists in addition to their sync business.  SOCAN has now concluded more than 30 licence agreements with different TV stations and platforms, and is regularly distributing AV post-sync royalties to those who joined SOCAN for reproduction rights. Don’t forget:  being a member of SOCAN allows us to manage your performance rights, but you must sign up separately to become a reproduction rights client. One does not create the other automatically.

Why are there concerns about AV post-sync rights among the screen composer community?
Screen composers often believe that raising the prospect of AV post-sync rights will deter producers from working with them, thinking that producers are responsible for paying this royalty, and might be unwilling to do so. But the producers aren’t responsible for paying AV post-sync royalties; the broadcaster or streaming service pays them.  This is important, because when a producer is selling their movie or TV show to a broadcaster or streaming platform, the producer wants to ensure that there are no added or outstanding rights considerations.  They want to deliver with a one-time license fee and no strings. However, rights collectives like SOCAN have direct licence agreements with the broadcaster or streaming platform for AV post-sync, so they’ve already agreed to pay for AV post-sync rights. The producer can still provide the production with no strings, understanding that the broadcaster or platform has already agreed to pay post-sync.

We’ve normalized the fact that a contract clause reserving future AV post-sync royalties won’t jeopardize the sale of a project to a platform. We’ve set up post-sync deals with all broadcasters in Québec, along with the largest digital AV platform in Canada, and more.

With whom does SOCAN have agreements to collect for AV Post-Sync rights?
We collect from major streaming services and commercial TV networks. We’ve negotiated settlements with CBC, and the largest audiovisual platform in Canada, and SOCAN is in ongoing negotiations with virtually all the others. Because they’re already licensed with SOCAN for performing rights, our established relationship makes it easier to sit down and negotiate AV post-sync rights.

Why does using a collective like SOCAN make sense for AV post-sync rights?
SOCAN has filed an AV post-sync tariff going back to 2015 and is negotiating AV post-sync with all major screen platforms. Deals already concluded create an immediate revenue stream for reproduction rights clients. And SOCAN already manages cue sheets, which identify the repertoire of our members being used in screen productions. Distribution occurs four times a year, and our recently enhanced royalty statements are more granular, to better meet the needs of our publishers.  Our a-la-carte service offer allows publishers and self-published writers to join solely for AV post-sync rights, with no long-term commitment. We have therefore grown our repertoire for this right by more than 250 percent in the last year, which in turn allows us to negotiate better deals.

Without SOCAN, rightsholders would have to personally negotiate with every broadcaster and audiovisual streaming platform for every music use for AV post-sync rights. Time-consuming doesn’t even begin to describe the effort that would require. It’s far more efficient to have us do it on a collective basis, for all their repertoire, engaging organizations with whom we already have contractual relationships.