Can Spotify, Google and Amazon *really* not identify who to pay publishing royalties to for Drake’s global hit ‘God’s Plan’? Or for Ed Sheeran’s ‘Perfect’? Or for Post Malone’s ‘Rockstar’ or Camila Cabello’s ‘Havana’ or… Well, you get the picture.

Artist-rights blog The Trichordist has published a post from industry lawyer Chris Castle in which he mines the database of NOI (‘notice of intention’) filings with the US Copyright Office, which in theory are how streaming services acquire a compulsory licence for a track when they don’t have details of a song’s copyright owner.

Based on filings catalogued by SoundExchange, the post outlines the strange situation where some of the world’s biggest streaming services – bar Apple – have filed NOIs for some of the biggest hits of 2017 and 2018. Now, they do know who wrote these songs and likely also their publishers, with whom the streaming services have direct (voluntary) licensing deals that would ensure royalties are paid out.

“So why would these Big Tech companies want to have both a compulsory license and a voluntary license?” asked Castle.

“Maybe so they will be covered with a royalty free license if the voluntary license should expire for some reason?… are they sending ‘address unknown’ NOIs as a matter of policy for all songs recorded in the tracks delivered to them by labels including songs already available to them under a voluntary license?” A good question.

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