Pop Culture

Published January 29, 2024

MuchMusic doc pulled from Crave months after director says he clashed with labels

MuchMusic documentary - CP

By David Friend

A MuchMusic documentary that once came under scrutiny for using a deep catalogue of popular music has been pulled from its premiere date on Crave.

Representatives for Bell Media say a "scheduling change" was behind their decision to quietly remove the full-length feature "299 Queen Street West" from a planned streaming premiere last Friday.

A version of the film that screened during a roadshow tour last year featured dozens of short musical performance clips, including those of a young Avril Lavigne, an acoustic serenade by Seal and one of Noel Gallagher singing outside the Toronto studio.

Last October, filmmaker Sean Menard told The Canadian Press that major labels including Universal Music Canada were trying to stop the cross-country screening tour, saying he used unlicensed music from their artists in his film.

At the time, Universal said negotiations over licensing of its recorded music was underway and that no legal action was being pursued.

Representatives for Bell Media, Universal Music Canada and Music Canada, a trade organization representing the big labels, did not return requests for comment on the changed broadcast and streaming plan. 

Menard said in October he believed his MuchMusic documentary falls under fair dealing laws in Canada, which permit the use of a copyright-protected work without permission in some cases, including news reporting, criticism and review.

The laws are similar to fair use laws in the United States.

A statement from Universal last fall said that "in everything that we do, we vigorously protect and defend artist’s rights."

"At present, we are in active and good faith negotiations with the film’s legal and production team on the licensing of Universal’s recorded music. No legal action has been pursued at this time," the record label wrote.

"299 Queen Street West" was made with the cooperation of on-screen talent who helped build the MuchMusic legacy, including VJs Rick Campanelli, Erica Ehm and Sook-Yin Lee. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 29, 2024

Banner image via The Canadian Press

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