In a new series of articles, The Breakdown, Words & Music offers short, basic answers to the most common and essential questions from SOCAN members. First up is copyright.

 What is copyright?
Copyright is a bundle of rights granted by law to creators of original work. The public performance right, and the reproduction right, which SOCAN administers on behalf of its members, are only two of these rights.

Why is copyright important?
Copyright protects specific forms of intellectual property, which are creative endeavours that can be protected under the law.

Does SOCAN copyright my songs?
No, SOCAN can’t copyright your songs for you. Actually, copyright is automatically granted as soon as an original work is fixed into a tangible form. This means that as soon as you write it down, record it, make it into a computer file, or fix it in any other way, it’s your copyright. However, in order to protect your copyright, registering your claim to legally document ownership is best. Registration of copyright is useful if you ever need to prove that the work is indeed your own copyright-protected property.

How do I formally register my copyright ownership in Canada?
Contact one of the following or visit their website for further information:

  • Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO)
  • Songwriters Association of Canada (members only)
  • SPACQ – Société professionnelle des auteurs et des compositeurs du Québec
  • SARTEC (members and non-members) for French language copyrights

Can I just send my musical work to myself and keep it in a sealed envelope?
Sending a copy of your song to yourself and keeping the envelope sealed until it is needed (e.g., for a legal proceeding) can be a fact that will help establish the date you claimed authorship/ownership. It doesn’t prove that you created the song; rather, it only helps establish the date you claim the song came into existence.

How long does a copyright last?
In Canada, copyright generally lasts for 50 years after the author dies (or after the last surviving author dies, if a song is co-written). This will change to 70 years when the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is signed, likely in 2019.

What is “public domain”?
A song falls into the public domain when the copyright has expired. After that time, anyone has the right to record it, copy it, modify it, adapt it, and generally use it without obtaining permission. Of course, any new arrangement or adaptation of the song may give rise to a copyright claim.

In a new series of articles, The Breakdown, Words & Music offers short, basic answers to the most common and essential questions from SOCAN members. This time, it’s cue sheets.

What is an audiovisual cue sheet?
A cue sheet is a document that provides details about all the music used in a screen production, whether a feature film, documentary, an episode of a television series, even a TV commercial.  The cue sheet lists any theme music and background music associated specifically with those productions, as well as any independent songs included in the soundtrack of the movie, TV show, or commercial.

How does SOCAN use the information on cue sheets to pay performance royalties to songwriters, composers, and music publishers?
On an ongoing basis, SOCAN receives programming information, which tells us what screen productions are being shown on TV and at movie theatres. Based on this information, we allocate the number of performances logged. The programming information, however, doesn’t provide any detail about what music is being used in each production. Without the cue sheet, these performances would remain unidentified and unpaid. To provide us with details about the music used in the production, we rely on the information provided on your cue sheets.

What information is provided to SOCAN in a cue sheet?
The first section of cue sheet provides high-level details about the production, including its name; the date of production; the names of the director and actors; the country of origin; foreign sales; and so on. This is useful for us to accurately identify which production should be matched to the performance information received by other performing rights organizations. The second section of the cue sheet provides specific details about each piece of music used in the production, including the title, composer (or songwriter), music publisher, ownership shares in the composition or song; and the manner of usage in the production (e.g., opening theme, background, closing theme, etc.).

Who’s responsible for submitting the cue sheet to SOCAN?
A cue sheet completed by the producer of a film or TV show is considered the authoritative source, but they can also be submitted by broadcasters, distributors, international performing rights organizations, and SOCAN members. If you’re a songwriter, composer, or music publisher, we recommend that you notify any screen production companies you work with to file their cue sheets with SOCAN, and to provide you with copies for your records.

How do I submit a cue sheet to SOCAN?
SOCAN cue sheets can be completed online and sent to Any other electronic format cue sheet may also be e-mailed to SOCAN will accept hard copy cue sheets by mail or fax.

How do I fill out a cue sheet?
You’ll find detailed instructions on how to complete a cue sheet; a blank cue sheet; and to a sample of a completed cue sheet, all here. For any additional questions, e-mail our Info Centre at, or call 1-866-307-6226.

Before applying for any funding, the first step is to ensure that you’re eligible. “Read the guidelines and eligibility requirements thoroughly, and understand the scope of work required to apply,” says professional grant writer Erin Kinghorn, of eEK! Productions. Kinghorn also suggests artists apply on their own initially, to learn and understand the process.

Clayton Bellamy

Clayton Bellamy

Applying on your own also helps to refine your vision for a project. “It’s one thing to talk about what you want to do, but when you put it on paper it makes it real,” says The Road Hammers’ Clayton Bellamy. “It gives you direction; so I really encourage it. Take your time, do your research, ask your friends and peers for help, for clarity. Even if you don’t get funding the first, second, or third times, you’re still learning, and building relationships.”

The application process is daunting, so the more information you have from people who understand the requirements, the better. The granting agency itself is the best starting point.

“We want to see artists get funding,” says Karina Moldovan, Communications and Stakeholder Relations Officer at FACTOR (The Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings). “That’s what our Project Coordinators are for; to help clients navigate this process successfully. There are so many unique situations, so we encourage people to ask whatever questions they might have. Also, your plan should be really specific, with realistic, achievable goals, and not too long. There’s only so much time jurors can dedicate to one application, so get your point across quickly and professionally.

“Some people’s idea of what’s impressive in their career doesn’t always match with what the funder thinks is impressive,” adds Cat Bird of, who’s been writing grant applications for 11 years. For example, having developed a relationship with an organization that sends your music out to its database, or attaches physical product/online freebies to their product is worth mentioning, but may be peripheral to your chances of success.

One thing that can increase your chances is how legitimate you appear, says Brian Hetherman, (owner of Curve Music/Cerberus Artist Management/Sonic Envy, former VP of Industry Affairs/interim General Manager of FACTOR, and former Executive Director of the Radio Starmaker Fund). “There’s got to be something from the outside world backing up what you’re trying to say; even just some quotes,” he says. “If you’re not far enough along for album or live reviews, get people in the industry to back you up and give you a legitimate quote.”

Damhnait Doyle

Damhnait Doyle

But know that there’s a line between talking yourself up legitimately, and going too far. As Hetherman says, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard another person on a jury say, ‘I’m not working on this project. Why is my name attached to it?’ That’s doesn’t bode well for you.”

Additionally, ensure that your music files sound good on various playback devices and work in multiple web browsers, and that your social media are up to date. And start early, says singer-songwriter Damhnait Doyle: “It’s an unbelievable amount of work; weeks of your time. Even if you’re working with your manager, or a grant writer, you still have to supply all the hard facts and information.”

Ideally, to get the most out of your interactions with agency staff, you need time to ask questions and have meaningful conversations, and if you’re hiring a grant writer, the closer to deadline the less likely they’ll be able to help. “I’ve never done more than 30 grants in a month,” Bird says, “but (then) I’m living on Red Bull and my kids are afraid to enter the room. And I don’t want to give anybody else a half-assed application because somebody called late.”

Beyond that, granting agencies’ online portals, though generally reliable, can have issues at the 11th hour, Hetherman cautions: “Because everyone who’s either halfway through, just starting their applications, or even putting the final touches on, is trying to push it through at the last minute.”

Above all, be persistent. “It’s unlikely that the first time out you’re going to get funded,” Hetherman continues. “Being unsuccessful doesn’t necessarily mean your application or project has no merit. There’s only so much money to go around. If you don’t receive funding, some agencies will provide feedback explaining why, if you ask for it, which will help next time out.”

Julian Taylor, leader of The Julian Taylor Band, has been approved for funding several times. “But I’ve also been denied several times,” he says. “I’d say don’t start with the big grants. When I was [applying] on my own, I’d start on smaller, more accessible grants. Those gave me practice in what to put down, and how to execute that. And I’ve found the applications are the blueprint for any business plan you’re trying to conceive as an artist; one you can use as your template, and build from.”

Julian Taylor

Julian Taylor

Bear in mind, too, that depending on the program you’re applying for, the cost of hiring a writer may eat in to the funding too much to make it worthwhile.

Regardless of the funder – FACTOR, The Radio Starmaker Fund, Canada Council for The Arts, or other federal, provincial or municipal agencies – they want you to succeed. “I got my first FACTOR funding 25 years ago, and I’ve dealt with different people along the way, but they’re always competent and understanding,” says Doyle. “They have to adhere to strict rules around how money is spent, but there’s compassion, and an understanding of how the industry works. I’ve been very fortunate to be accepted, but I’ve applied for things that haven’t been accepted, and that’s the way it should go. It should be nurturing new artists. But I appreciate their willingness to see artists through their careers. It’s not just a focus on what’s shiny or new. It’s a fair funding model for established and emerging artists.”

One artist for whom various funding agencies’ support has been particularly helpful is Alberta-based singer-songwriter Nuela Charles. Like Bellamy, Taylor, and Doyle, Charles has been turned down, but since starting out in 2012, the funding she has received, and the process of applying, have been integral to her career.

“It was trial and error, and speaking to other people who’ve written grants… A gradual learning curve, but I’ve gotten to the point where I can contract out for other artists if they need grant writing, and have been able to get FACTOR and Alberta Foundation for the Arts funding for a couple of bands.”

Charles’ latest record, The Grand Hustle, was nominated for a 2018 JUNO Award, in the Adult Contemporary Album of the Year category. “That record,” she says, “was actually funded by FACTOR. Without their funding, that would never have happened…

“[But] when applying for the funding, have a backup plan,” she adds. “If your goal is to create a project and you don’t get funding, have a way to still do it, and plan to do it because, I feel, you shouldn’t be dependent on funding. It’s nice to have, but still create your art.”