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Liability and Contracts

Various areas must be examined when planning an event, including liability and contracts. This is one area in which you may require professional help.

It is helpful to seek the advice of a lawyer or law firm that is familiar with the type of event you are planning. You may be able to acquire this expertise at little or no cost by inviting a lawyer to join your board of directors as a volunteer.

The yellow pages of the telephone book provides a comprehensive listing of legal firms and individuals under "Lawyers." In addition, you should also consult with other organizations that have hosted similar events for advice in seeking appropriate legal expertise.


Waiver Forms
An organizer can be held liable for failing to use reasonable care in the coordination or the supervision of an event. However, the law does make reference to a voluntary assumption of risk. By partaking in an event, a participant or spectator assumes a degree of risk or danger which is associated with that activity.

Potential liability can be significantly reduced by taking all practical precautions in the design and operation of programs and by having participants sign a waiver.

A waiver is a contractual agreement between the participant and the operation which disclaims responsibility and indicates that all of the risks are assumed by the participant.

The Department of Justice offers an opinion on waivers:

"Waivers will be strictly interpreted by the courts against the party seeking to benefit from them."

Well-designed waivers must "clearly include the participant or spectator within their terms and identify what specific rights are being waived and what individual is immune from liability".

There are some concerns with the use of waiver forms. These include the feeling that it is ethically wrong to use a waiver to attempt to absolve a person or an organization from liability, especially if the person or the organization was in fact negligent.

Informed Consent
An alternative to the waiver form is a well-designed consent form.

Participants are informed of the risks involved, of any possible serious consequences and of the comparative benefits and hazards in an activity, in order that they may make an intelligent choice regarding their participation. Every organizer needs to include a release portion to the form. It is unclear whether a consent form would provide full liability protection for an organizing group.

Other legal considerations include contracts for the rental of facilities, sponsorship and individual contracts with players, participants, teams, entertainers and sport associations.

A verbal agreement can be binding; but it is important to have written agreements or contracts to avoid misunderstandings.

Unincorporated associations and informal clubs lack the authority to sign contracts, therefore any liability will fall on the actual person(s) signing.

Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers
The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers (SOCAN) is a licensing body that acts on behalf of its members to ensure that its members receive royalties when other musicians use their music. Fees are collected by SOCAN for the musicians/writers who are registered as members.

Organizations are not required to pay fees to SOCAN for any musical events that are funded by the Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF).

For further information please contact:

The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers(SOCAN)
41 Valleybrook Drive
Toronto, Ontario
M3B 2S6
(416) 445-8700

Copyright applies to all original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, including books, writings, music, sculptures, paintings, photographs, as well as motion pictures, computer programs, records, audio tapes, cassettes and compact discs.

Be sure to obtain permission from the author or creator before copying, publishing, reproducing or performing any of the above. There may be a fee for use.

Thunder Bay Musician Association
The Thunder Bay Musician Association is a body that acts on behalf of musicians that are registered members. If you are hiring an associated band, the Musicians Performance Trust Fund, which is managed by the Thunder Bay Musician Association, may assist in funding some of the cost, to a maximum of 35%, if the performance has no charge for admission.

For more information call 622-1062 or email: or
1111 Victoria Avenue East, P7C 1B7

Event organizers should be aware that names and photographs of performers, participants, volunteers and spectators cannot be used for any purpose without authorization.

Consent should be obtained form each individual before using photographs, video footage or names in any media or promotional material.

If special event organizers have any symbols, designs or words that distinguish goods or services particular to their organizations, they may want to consider a trademark registration to protect that identification.

A trademark identifies the goods or services marketed under its protection.

Registration forms and information can be obtained from:

Canadian Intellectual Property Office
Place du Portage I
50 Victoria Street
Gatineau, QC
K1A 0C9
or visit their website at:

There is a filing fee of $250 (if application and fee are submitted online; $300 otherwise) and an additional fee of $200 for the registration of the trademark. The process can take up to 21 months from the date of application to the receipt of a trademark.