In July, the US National Music Publishers’ Association signed a licensing agreement with social media Platform TikTok.

The sharing of music on TikTok has caused concern for the music industry, with key individuals threatening legal action as a result of unlicensed music being used on the Platform. The CEO of the NMPA, David Israelite, told the Financial Times in October 2019 that legal action against TikTok was “a likely future step as he estimated that more than 50 per cent of the music publishing market was unlicensed with TikTok”.

BACKGROUND

The NMPA is an American trade association representing music publishers and songwriters.

TikTok is a social media platform which allows users to upload short videos, often to music.

Music used in viral TikTok videos often become viral themselves. For example, in December 2019 TikToker @yodelinghaley made a dance to Doja Cat’s song Say So. The dance went viral and was reproduced by users on the platform. Over 19 million videos to Doja Cat’s Say So have been uploaded to TikTok.

THE LICENSING AGREEMENT WITH THE NMPA

In July 2020, the NMPA signed a multi-year licensing agreement with TikTok, including for TikTok’s past use of music. It also allows NMPA’s members to “opt-in to a licensing framework that allows them to benefit from their works included on TikTok and is effective retroactively as of May 1, 2020”.

David Israelite said: “This is a major victory for songwriters and publishers. Building new partnerships and income streams is even more important in this challenging time in the music industry. Songs have tremendous value and I am so pleased this settlement and global partnership with @tiktok recognizes that value”.

TIKTOK LICENSING DEALS

TikTok is likely to agree a number of licensing deals with the implementation of the EU Copyright Directive due to be implemented on 7 June 2021. Article 17 places liability on social media platforms for making copyright protected works uploaded by its users available to the public. It has already entered into several agreements in the last year alone.

In July 2019 ICE Services, who administer royalties and has the largest music repertoire in Europe, referred TikTok to the UK Copyright Tribunal due to unlicensed content being published on the social media platform. Then in December 2019, ICE Services withdrew the dispute and entered into arbitration with TikTok in relation to TikTok posting unlicensed content.

On 23 July 2020 TikTok also signed a multi-year partnership with Believe who “distributes more than a third of the world’s digital music in volume”.