Federal Court rules in SOCAN's favor on copyright dispute with mobile telecommunications services providers for return of royalties paid to SOCAN for ringtones and ringbacks

2 minute read
06 March 2015

Rogers Communications Partnership et. al v. Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, 2015 FC 286

In a decision released March 6, 2015, the Federal Court ruled on a dispute between the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (“SOCAN”) and Rogers Communications and other leading Canadian mobile telecommunications services providers over royalties paid to SOCAN for ringtones and ringbacks.

The telecommunications services providers had paid approximately $15 million to SOCAN in royalties for the sale of ringtones under tariffs certified by the Copyright Board in 2010 and 2012. Following the 2012 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in ESA v. SOCAN, Rogers et al. filed a claim in Federal Court for restitution of all royalties paid to SOCAN under the certified ringtones tariffs prior to the 2012 Supreme Court decision that triggered the issues in dispute. In defence, SOCAN pleaded that the tariffs under which the royalties were paid were validly certified by the Copyright Board and that SOCAN’s receipt and retention of the royalties was justified.

The parties submitted keys question of law to the Federal Court for preliminary determination under Rule 220. In its decision, the Federal Court ruled that tariff was validly certified by the Copyright Board, that SOCAN was not unjustly enriched by the collection of royalties under the tariffs and, therefore, that the plaintiffs were not entitled to repayment of the $15 million in royalties. This decision is currently under appeal.

Lynne Watt leads a team from Gowlings, including Matthew Estabrooks and Anca Sattler, in advising and representing SOCAN before the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal.

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