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What we learned from TikTok vs Universal.

Well, its finally over. Universal and TikTok have reached an agreement and Universal's recording artists and songwriters are joining their stablemate Taylor Swift back on the social media giant's platform, with both sides naturally claiming 'victory'.

We want to extend a heartfelt THANK YOU to them both for providing us with such a fruitful source of relevant highlights / talking points relevant to music licensing for sports and performing arts!

A quick recap:

After pulling its recording artists' music from TikTok on 31st January 2024 as described in our first blog on the subject, Universal's publishing arm's license with TikTok was allowed to expire on 29th February 2024, forcing the social media giant to remove yet more music from its platform (and prompting a second blog from us).

Then as described in our third blog Taylor Swift got involved just before the launch of her recent album The Tortured Poets Dpeartment.

What we learned from the dispute:

The music industry is taking an increasingly strong stance to protect the value of its music.

TikTok was very careful to comply with their agreement with Universal to the letter rather than continue to use the music without explicit permission and risk a massive lawsuit.

TikTok's removal of UMPG songwriters' content had an even wider effect, once again illustrating the power and importance of publishing rights when using music - under copyright law, even if the songwriter only owns a small fraction of a song's publishing rights, their permission (license) is needed to use that song. If they say 'no', that song can't be used.

Music publishing rights are even more complicated than master rights - you need to be 100% sure that you have 100% of the publishing rights to music before using it, whether that's an original music industry track or a cover version.

This case is increasingly looking like it will give the music industry reasons to further investigate how their music is being used, not just on social media, and crack down on copyright infringements.

Be sure you are using music from a partner who guarantees that they have all the rights you need to the music, from the master AND 100% of the publishing owners of each track - like ClicknClear!

Taylor Swift acknowledged the impact that music has on TikTok - which was actually Universal's point in its dispute - by making sure her music was back on the platform ahead of her latest album release.

By doing so she also neatly highlighted the control that the largest musicians - and their estates in the case of deceased artists - can exert over the music you use in your sports and performing arts routines.

The more famous and successful the artist, the more control they will have - to the extent that in ClicknClear's deals with major record labels and publishers, some high profile artists and songwriters are classed as 'restricted', meaning they have not (yet) allowed their record label and music publishers to include them in our pre-cleared catalogue of music industry tracks.

You should be very wary of sound-alike cover versions of songs by high-profile artists. You need to check before you license cover versions whether they include publishing rights - typically they don't and, as the original artists and their songs are 'restricted', you could end up paying for music you can't legally use, and be left with an impossible job to get the necessary permissions to enable the cover to become fully copyright compliant.

In contrast, ClicknClear guarantees that every one of the 1M+ tracks available for instant licensing on our platform offers all the copyrights you need, from both the recording artists and songwriters, so you can use our awesome music industry catalogue with total confidence!


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