Artists’ legal aid clinic opens

McGill students found clinic to provide artists with advice on negotiations and illegal use of their work

Montreal’s artists will welcome a legal clinic catered to their needs this Sunday with the launch of the Clinique Juridique d’Artistes de Montreal (CJAM), a McGill-student-run initiative aimed at providing local artists with legal information.

In a city renowned for its artistic talent, many artists often have trouble working out by themselves the complex legal issues that accompany their professions, and affording help can also often prove too large a financial obstacle for small, local artists, according to U4 Law student and CJAM director Olivier Plessis.

“Local artists often don’t have resources, funding, or access to legal service,” Plessis said. “They need help getting off the ground.”

Yzes Agouri, Director of Diversité Artistique Montréal, an organization that fosters art and culture in the community, said that often artists don’t know where to find legal assistance and resort to resolving their legal responsibilities themselves, without adequate knowledge.

“[Artists] are not experienced or knowledgeable. They think they can do it by themselves,” Agouri said.

Artists can encounter a variety of legal responsibilities, ranging from contract issues to the illegal use of their work. The amount of legal responsibilities for artists can amount to such a level that it becomes impossible to manage it all.

“[Artists] need help with everything,” said Agouri, who cited help with things like licensing and distributing agreements, legal representation, and deals with agents and venues as examples.

CJAM plans to familiarize artists with basic legal information and the knowledge of their rights, through meetings and workshops.

“We’ll show [artists] templates – for example, what a contract looks like – and we’ll [introduce] them to business practices in the [artistic] industry,” said Plessis. “Copyright and contracts are the biggest issue for local artists, but we’ll help with everything.”

CJAM also plans to cater to the artistic and lingual diversity of Montreal by providing bilingual services to artists, and will accommodate artists from all genres – music, film, dance, and writing.

“Given the music scene [in Montreal], we’re expecting a lot of interest musically, with things like recording contracts,” said Plessis. “But our goal is to be a true Montreal clinic, and provide equal access [to anglophone and francophone artists].”

CJAM currently has neither formal status nor a permanent physical space from which to operate. Plessis, one of five McGill students who started the group, is hoping that CJAM’s first meeting this weekend will not only attract local artists, but also McGill students who want to volunteer.

“We want McGill and the [Montreal] arts community involved,” said Plessis. “We’re hoping to recruit people to management positions to help with things like marketing, business, and financing. We’re also looking for general volunteers, too.”

CJAM is just getting off the ground, but Plessis and those in the local artistic community are looking forward to the services CJAM are hoping they will be able to provide.

“We’ll help with whatever the artists demonstrate a need for,” said Plessis. “The sky is really the limit.”

CJAM’s first meeting is Sunday from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., at Apathy is Boring, 10 Pins O., #412, and can be contacted at