Spotify’s Rush to Blame HFA May Be Misplaced

MUSIC • TECHNOLOGY • POLICY

The knives are out for the Harry Fox Agency in Spotify’s mechanical licensing debacle but that blame is a little too convenient and may well be misplaced.  Discovery in the songwriter class actions will no doubt shed a spotlight on the situation, but when you think about it, there’s actually an alternative explanation that has the appeal of elegance.

Think about it.  In order for any licensing company to clear songs on a service someone at the service has to tell them which songs to license.  That’s where it starts.  With the service.  That is—with Spotify.  So Spotify knows which songs it needs to license.

HFA is a special case because it is both a publisher’s agent (licensing “out”) and a clearance company (licensing “in”).  This is the source of ambiguity for those who are unfamiliar with the landscape.

When HFA is licensing out for compulsory licenses, it probably has…

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