10 CANADIAN BRIEFINGS SEPTEMBER 2017 © Association of Corporate Counsel
THE GOLDEN AGE OF MUSIC: A CONVERSATION WITH RESERVOIR MEDIA MANAGEMENT SVP AND GC JEFF MCGRATH
tors are struggling to keep up-to-date, and
the copyright holder is not not getting paid
appropriately for their work.
“Even if updated copyright legislation came
out this year, it would likely already be outdat-
ed by this time next year,” McGrath explains.
“Monitoring for infringement is volume-heavy
and time-consuming work, but protecting our
songwriters and their copyrights is paramount
to successfully growing and being respected in
Some of this is driven by the fact that there
are so many different rights holders in the
music industry — songwriters who write, art-
ists who record and perform, music publishers
that publish and promote, record labels that
manufacture and distribute, and digital service
providers that provide access to the content.
As a result, the general music consumer has
no feasible way of efficiently navigating the
labyrinth of licensing requirements.
“When someone posts a video of themselves
lip-syncing to a favorite song in their bedroom,
they don’t necessarily know all the rights that
surround the licensing of that song. We need
to find a process to make this understanding
easier to ensure the rights holders are being
compensated accordingly,” he notes.
In the pursuit of tangible changes in music
legislation, McGrath was appointed to the
board of directors of the Canadian Music
Publishers Association, and similarly Reservoir
President and CEO Golnar Khosrowshahi to
the board of directors of the National Music
Publishers Association in the United States.
From a cross-border perspective, having access
to government lawmakers in different regions
and providing a unified voice on behalf of the
company’s songwriters has been essential to
ensuring trust in the Reservoir brand.
And with four offices in four different jurisdictions (California, New York, the United
Kingdom, and Ontario), keeping a watchful eye
for changes in various laws and regulations is
crucial to the company’s success. For McGrath,
who is essentially a law department of one, this
can sometimes be a daunting prospect.
and Golnar (Reservoir) Khosrowshahi: Allow
him to transition full-time to Reservoir as its
senior vice president and general counsel and
lead Reservoir’s legal affairs on a global basis.
“I said to them, ‘It’s an incredible turning point
in the industry for music lawyers right now, and
it’s something that I would like to explore in tak-
ing my career to the next level.’
The Khosrowshahi family has
always been flexible for me,
and I’m grateful for the oppor-
tunity,” he says.
It’s prime time for Reser-
voir, which has grown consid-
erably in recent years due to
numerous copyright catalog
acquisitions, songwriter sign-
ings, and strategic purchases
of smaller music publishers in other juris-
dictions. As a result of the explosive growth
of digital service providers such as Spotify,
Pandora, Apple Music, and You Tube, there is a
newly energized interest in the music industry,
which has also brought about drastic changes
in how the end user interacts with Reservoir’s
content online. As a result, McGrath is increas-
ingly called on to implement precautionary
strategies to protect the company and its roster
of songwriters against copyright infringement.
And with a continually expanding roster of
songwriters responsible for over 175 worldwide
no. 1 hit releases, this is no small task.
To illustrate this point, McGrath presents
a hypothetical scenario. Imagine you’ve just
posted a video you’ve created to You Tube — a
surfing montage set to your favorite song.
Moments later, the video has been removed
for copyright infringement: The copyright
to that song is held by Reservoir, and no
license has been granted allowing you to use
it in your video. Under normal processes, a
user would request a license to obtain the
rights to use the song under a defined set of
parameters. However, in an age where access
to copyrighted material is just a click away,
songwriters, and publishing companies alike
“I said to them, ‘It’s an
incredible turning point
in the industry for music
lawyers right now, and
it’s something that I
would like to explore.’”