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Digital Definitions

The HFA website provides answers to commonly asked questions about mechanical licensing and related inquiries.

Permanent Digital Downloads

A permanent digital download (PDD) is each individual delivery of a phonorecord by digital transmission of a sound recording (embodying a musical composition) resulting in a reproduction made by or for the recipient which may be retained and played by the recipient on a permanent basis. PDDs are sometimes referred to as full downloads or untethered downloads.

Limited Downloads

A limited download is a digital file that is delivered electronically to a computer or other device to reside there on a limited basis. There are two types of limited downloads: time-limited download (for example, the song resides on the computer for 30 days) and use-limited download (for example, the song can be heard 12 times before it can no longer be played). Limited downloads are sometimes called tethered downloads.

Interactive Streaming

Interactive streaming is when a digital file is transmitted electronically to a computer or other device at the specific request of the end user in order to allow the end user to listen to a recording or a playlist contemporaneously with the user's request. Interactive streams are sometimes referred to as on-demand streams.

There are five defined types of uses for interactive streams that would require a licensing account to be set up in order to report to HFA. They are as follows:

Standalone Non-Portable Streaming Only

  • A service where the user can listen to sound recordings only in the form of interactive streams and only from a non-portable device to which such streams were originally transmitted while device has a live network connection.

Standalone Non-Portable Mixed Use

  • A service where the user can listen to sound recordings either in the form of interactive streams or limited downloads, but only from a non-portable device to which the streams or downloads were originally transmitted.

Standalone Portable Mixed Use

  • A service where the user can listen to sound recordings as interactive streams or limited downloads from a portable device.

Bundled Services

  • A subscription service offering one or more products or services bundled together without separate pricing for the individual components of the bundle.

Free Ad-Supported Services

  • A service offering interactive streams and/or limited downloads to the end user free of charge.


A ringtone is an excerpt of a musical composition embodied in a digital file and rendered into audio. Ringtones are stored in an end-user's mobile telephone, pager or other portable communications device and played whenever the device activates its ring or alert function (upon the arrival of a call, message or other notification).

There are two basic types of ringtones: Phonic Ringtones and Pre-Recorded Ringtones. Phonic Ringtones are, most commonly, standard MIDI sound files that are either monophonic, where the ringtones are recreated using standard single notes, or polyphonic, where notes can be played simultaneously creating harmony and/or counterpoint. Pre-Recorded ringtones play actual clips from sound recordings.


Ring-back tones (aka "Answer Tones") substitute an excerpt of a particular master sound recording of a composition for the sound a caller normally hears while waiting for the person called to answer the phone.


The SACD (Super Audio Compact Disc) is similar in concept to the standard CD with an additional high-density layer. It debuted in 1999 in a format that uses the digital audio format DSD (Direct Stream Digital) and a 4.7GB disc with 2.8 MHz to provide the consumer with a realistic audio experience. One of the most noted features of the SACD is its very high audio quality.

The SACD currently can be found in three disc configurations. The first configuration is called the Single-Layer SACD, which contains one DSD layer and holds 4.7 GB of data. The second configuration, called the Dual-Layer SACD, has two DSD layers and contains twice as much data. Note that both the single and dual-layer discs can be played on only a special SACD player. Finally, the Hybrid SACD contains one DSD layer (4.7 GB) and a conventional CD layer. This allows the disc to be played on both a standard CD Player and the SACD player.


The conversion of a sound recording into a digital file format.


Burning is the recording of music to a CD or a portable device. For example, a blank CD is placed into a CD Re-Writable drive that is connected to a personal computer. When each song is transferred, it is automatically "burned" into the blank CD and music may be subsequently listened to through this medium.

Peer to Peer (P2P)

Also referred to as file sharing, peer-to-peer is a popular type of application in which, rather than accessing files from a central server, users access a common network hub and open up portions of their own computer's hard drive to the public for downloading. Any unlicensed P2P activity is illegal and can result in criminal prosecution and/or fines.


Unlike burning where music is transferred onto a CD, ripping is the process of copying sound recordings from portable or removable media and placing that copy onto a computer's hard drive.


Webcasting generally refers to the online streaming, either live or on demand, of an audio or video source to various simultaneous users. Webcasting is sometimes referred to as internet radio or internet television. Webcasters may be Internet-only services that transmit several different genre-based channels, re-transmitters of traditional AM/FM broadcasts, or services that syndicate music programming as background music on Web sites. HFA does NOT handle webcasting licensing.

A La Carte Service

A service that allows a consumer to either stream, download or burn music on a pay per transaction basis. Examples include, but are not limited to, Apple iTunes and Buymusic.com.

Online Music Subcription Service

This is a service that allows a consumer to either stream, download or burn music for a set fee for a set period of time. Examples include, but are not limited to, Listen.com's Rhapsody, eMusic and Napster.

User Generated Content

User Generated Content (UGC) refers to various kinds of websites where either entire or large portions of the content on the site are created by the users of the site (as opposed to the administrators). Also referred to as "consumer generated media" (CGM) or "user created content" (UCC), UGC includes contents such as blogs, podcasts and user product reviews.

Registered Users

This area is for registered users of HFA Songfile and HFA Online.



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