TikTok: The Evolution of Music Licensing

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The licensing and commercial distribution of music has been an ongoing challenge for musicians and composers. Composers of all genres have struggled to find a suitable way for their fans and supporters to enjoy their work independent of live performances. Due to inventions such as the phonograph, vinyl record, compact disc, and the MP3 Player, the music distribution and licensing processes have evolved. As society becomes increasingly digitized, the consumption of music across various social platforms present challenges for the unauthorized use of music and artist compensation. The company Napster, at one point, was in the center of such conversations. 

The problem of unauthorized use and compensation for music came to a head in the late 20th century with the creation of Napster. In 1999, teenagers Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning started the website Napster, a software application that allowed users to share electronic copies of music saved on their computers. At its peak, Napster had approximately 80 million users. However, after several lawsuits from the music industry, which objected to Napster making their music available for free, the service platform shut down in 2001. In 2011, the music streaming service Rhapsody acquired Napster and due to the global recognition possessed by the website, Rhapsody adopted its name to become a single platform officially. This new version of Napster requires a paid subscription for music access. 

Following the slew of litigation and music industry issues caused by Napster, the creation of TikTok, the latest social media trend, has also added to the list of music licensing challenges. TikTok is a mobile application designed to grant one the ability to create short and entertaining videos. TikTok has seen over 1.5 billion downloads and currently boasts over 800 million active users, with the United States ranked third behind India and China in the number of downloads. TikTok is highly popular among teenagers and young adults, garnering over 1 billion worldwide views per day. TikTok creators use music in their videos.  

TikTok creators capture the attention of their audiences by adding songs to the background of their videos. This presents a significant problem for musical artists, as users were republishing these songs as their own without paying any royalties to the artists. TikTok users are also combining the work of multiple artists to create their own product without compensating any of the artists for their work. Moreover, as the app grows in popularity, many users are using the musical content of artists to unwarrantedly associate with brands or political stances. All of these factors further continue the conversation on authorized use and compensation. 

How Does TikTok Use Music Legally?

To avoid copyright infringement lawsuits, in January of 2020 TikTok formed a partnership with an agency representing independent artists. Since then, TikTok has signed additional agreements with major publishing labels. Although TikTok users have not noticed any major changes, verified businesses and organizations are no longer permitted to use mainstream music on the platform. Rather, these businesses and organizations will have to access royalty-free music in the new commercial music library compartment of the TikTok app. Despite the agreements, partnerships, and platform changes, TikTok has not been able to shake the onslaught of legal issues. Universal Music Publishing and other publishing labels, who have been in negotiations with TikTok, have recently threatened to sue for copyright infringement. Concerns are rising that TikTok may become the 2020 version of Napster. 

IPS Legal Group is Here To Help Businesses On TikTok 

IPS Legal Group, P.A. is here to help businesses manage their assets when using social media platforms such as TikTok. For proper protection, businesses, whether classified by TikTok as “verified” or “unverified”, should consult with an experienced attorney before incurring liability for unauthorized use of music. The attorney should be skilled in licensing and copyright law. With proper consultation, a company will prevent potential lawsuits for copyright infringement. Further, new artists should ensure that their content is protected. The attorneys at IPS Legal Group P.A. are skilled and knowledgeable in licensing, copyright, and trademark matters.  Contact IPS Legal Group, P.A., for more information.

Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice or instruction. Every legal question calls for a different legal answer, and the above might not apply to your situation. Contact IPS Legal Group, P.A. today to discuss your licensing questions and needs.

 

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