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 said Monday that a "scheduling change" was behind their decision to quietly remove "299 Queen Street West" from a planned debut last Friday on the channel and its streaming service.
They did not offer details on the decision.
The two-hour film uses archival footage and voiceovers from MuchMusic personalities to trace the history of the national music channel from its earliest days as an upstart Toronto station.
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 and told him the film includedunlicensed music from their artists.
At the time, Universal said in a statement that negotiations over licensing of its recorded music were underway and that no legal action was being pursued.
Menard said his MuchMusic documentary only used 10-to-15-second snippets of songs, which he believed fell under fair dealing in Canada. Those laws permit the limited 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.
Menard, whose previous work includes the 2017 Vince Carter documentary "The Carter Effect," said he consulted with a U.S. law firm during post-production. The firm advised him on what footage might need to be paid for and what fell under his legal rights.
"The whole thing is archive footage," he said in October.
"I licensed a huge chunk that doesn't fall under the fair use guidelines. But there's a lot of the music and music videos shown that fall under that guideline."
Menard declined to provide additional comment on Monday.
His "299 Queen Street West" roadshow finished its Canadian screening tour last November and Crave announced a home premiere date shortly after.
Universal Music Canada and Music Canada, a trade organization representing the big labels, did not return requests for comment Monday on the status of their claims.
Bell Media declined to respond to a request for more information on the reason behind the broadcast and streaming lineup change.
A statement from Universal last fall detailed some background on the label's side of the negotiations. They said the film used 12 tracks owned by Universal, which the label offered to licence for "a reasonable rate of $500 per track."
"In everything that we do, we vigorously protect and defend artist’s rights," a spokesperson for the record label wrote.
"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."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 29, 2024.
David Friend, The Canadian Press