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.

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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.

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