The SOCAN Experience: A Semester in Osgoode's IP Intensive Program

The SOCAN Experience: A Semester in Osgoode's IP Intensive Program

I was one of the lucky few that had the chance to take part in the inaugural IP Intensive program last term at Osgoode Hall Law School.  Before coming to Osgoode, I was a musician for over a decade, so I was thrilled when I received the news that my placement was at the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), a collective rights society that collects and distributes licence fees and royalties to artists for the public performance and communication to the public of their music.

I was looking forward to interning SOCAN for two main reasons. First, I was being given the opportunity to work on behalf of fellow musicians. When I was a professional musician, SOCAN was truly a lifeline.  Whenever I needed help, they always took the time to make sure any issues were taken care of; and since most of the money I generated through my music went straight to publishers, managers, and labels, SOCAN was the only place from which I actually received remuneration.  Second, I was going to get some much-needed real-world legal experience, including a rare opportunity to assist in preparing for the multiple upcoming hearings at the SCC that concerned communication to the public.

Although I was initially quite nervous, my first week at SOCAN went a long way to assuaging any fears I had due to my lack of experience.  Everyone I met was extremely helpful and welcoming; and they were happy to answer even the most naïve questions.  The legal department at SOCAN was actually smaller than I expected, and unusually calm considering the amount of cases they had coming up at the SCC.

I was mainly given research tasks during my time at SOCAN, and not all of it had to do with copyright or music.  In my time working with counsel there, I learned that the job of in-house counsel deals with many different areas of law.  Of course, I conducted legal research into various new proposed Tariffs, Bill C-11, and the upcoming SCC cases, but I also looked into such things as insurance contracts and corporate law.

I also worked on litigation files.  I not only had the opportunity to draft such things as Undertakings, Refusals and Statements of Claim, but I was also able to have in depth discussions about each task with the lawyers who assigned them to me.  The hands-on approach that this intensive made possible is a fantastic way to learn such things – working side by side with counsel in such a way is not possible in a classroom situation.  Every new assignment taught me more about what it is to be a lawyer, and each memo I wrote brought everything into sharper focus.

What really impressed me about SOCAN is how concerned they are with doing what is right. SOCAN is more interested in making legal access to music as easy as possible than it is in enforcing strict copyright regimes.  Most people who work there do so because they love music, and they genuinely want what is best both for creators and users.  Working with SOCAN on behalf of musicians and music users (for fair remuneration and easy legal access) was truly an honour for me.

I can easily say that interning at SOCAN was best experience of my Osgoode education so far.  It helped so much to prepare me for what it will be like once I am back in the “real” world.  Until the intensive, I found that law school had done little to prepare me for what the actual work of a lawyer was like, and my time at SOCAN went a long way to bringing the concept of working as a lawyer into focus.


Joshua Dallman is a JD student at Osgoode Hall Law School. Here, he reports on his experience at the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), while interning there as part of the inaugural offering of the Intellectual Property Law and Technology Intensive Program (IP Intensive) at Osgoode.