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National Music Publishers Assn. Does Not Plan to Renew TikTok License — Will Indie Publishers Follow?

The standoff between Universal Music Group and TikTok took another turn on Wednesday when the trade group National Music Publishers Association sent a letter to its members saying that it does not expect to renew its license with the China-based platform when it expires at the end of next month.

“Recently, the press has highlighted concerns around TikTok’s licensing practices, concerns that NMPA has heard directly from many of our members,” the letter reads in part. “At this time, we do not anticipate that there will be an option to renew or extend the current NMPA licenses or participate in a new license with TikTok through NMPA.”

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UMG has highlighted a litany of issues with TikTok — most prominently its low royalty payments and its policies on AI — in an open letter and other public statements and the platform has responded in kind, and the situation has deteriorated into an ugly war of words and actions that has seen UMG remove all of the music it distributes or publishes from the platform, while its artists and songwriters have lost not only the (admittedly usually small) revenue from the platform but also access to the most powerful vehicle to promote their music of the past five years. UMG has said its heavy handed tactics are in the best interests of the artists.

If more publishers join in — the two other major companies, Sony and Warner Chappell, have not yet done so — it would mean more music will vanish from the platform and more artists and songwriters will see their livelihoods impacted.

While the NMPA license represents a large number of publishers, it is unclear which ones. In the letter — the full text of which appears below — the organization encourages its members to negotiate directly with TikTok if it wishes to continue to license their music on the platform; if not, it offers its services to “discuss enforcement options.”

With the support of the majors, NMPA has used its considerable clout to enforce more-favorable licenses with multiple platforms over the years, from Pandora to Twitch to Triller, and usually the platforms initially defy it but ultimately come to terms (usually far less-favorable to them). However, the UMG-TikTok standoff is the first time that a major music company has confronted a platform that has defied it on this scale — and one that claims it doesn’t need the company’s music to succeed.

The text of the letter appears below in full; Variety will have more on the situation as it develops.

If you are receiving this Member Alert you are currently participating in a license with TikTok through NMPA’s 2022 model license opt-in.

NMPA is notifying all participants that these two-year licenses are set to expire on April 30, 2024.

Recently, the press has highlighted concerns around TikTok’s licensing practices, concerns that NMPA has heard directly from many of our members.

At this time, we do not anticipate that there will be an option to renew or extend the current NMPA licenses or participate in a new license with TikTok through NMPA.

NMPA members should make their own business determination whether to engage directly with TikTok to negotiate a license beyond April 30, 2024.

It is important that all NMPA members understand that without a license in place, TikTok should not be using your musical works on its platform.

Starting May 1, 2024, any members who are not licensed with TikTok and would like to discuss enforcement options can contact attorneys at NMPA.

If circumstances change prior to the expiration of the current TikTok licenses, NMPA will promptly notify members.

We are here to answer your questions.

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