Business News Digital Labels & Publishers Legal

TikTok says it hopes for “reasonable outcome” by taking ICE to Copyright Tribunal

By | Published on Thursday 25 July 2019


TikTok has commented on its decision to take PRS and its ICE copyright hub to Copyright Tribunal here in the UK. Although it hasn’t really provided any more context regarding the dispute, except to say that it hopes the copyright court will help it secure a “reasonable outcome” in its bid to secure a licence from the song rights organisation.

Video-sharing app of the moment TikTok has been busy trying to get deals in place with the music industry to fully license all the music contained in the videos its users upload. ICE is the copyright hub owned by UK, Swedish and German song right collecting societies PRS, STIM and GEMA. Among other things, it negotiates deals with multi-territory streaming services on behalf of its shareholders. Although, because many publishers now directly licence Anglo-American repertoire, not all PRS rights will be in those deals.

TikTok’s decision to go to Copyright Tribunal suggests ICE was driving a harder bargain than the digital firm expected. Having quickly become a major global marketing platform for labels trying to reach a certain demographic, the Chinese company has presumably tried to factor ‘promotional value’ into its deal making. But talk of promo only tends to work as a negotiating tactic with labels and distributors, which are more actively involved in artist marketing, and less so with publishers, songwriters and their collecting societies.

The UK’s Copyright Tribunal can intervene when the music industry licenses via the collective licensing system, and exists to allay the competition law concerns that are raised by the collective licensing approach. It’s the first time ICE, as a representative of society rights, has been taken to the tribunal. And it’s more than a decade since a digital platform has gone this route in the UK against PRS. If it gets to court, the dispute will raise a bunch of interesting questions, as outlined in our report yesterday.

But anyway, TikTok has spoken. Confirming its tribunal action, it said: “TikTok is an exciting way for songs and emerging artists to gain exposure and break through with a wide and varied audience. As a platform for unique and original creative content, we place high value and respect upon intellectual property rights, and we work closely with music rights holders to protect a library of sound on the platform which is available for users to infuse in their own short videos”.

“As part of this”, it went on, “we have been in active and extended negotiations with ICE. We have asked the UK Copyright Tribunal as a neutral third party to help us reach a reasonable outcome. We look forward to continuing the conversation with ICE and reaching an agreement that furthers the opportunity for artists and songwriters on the platform”.

For its part, ICE said earlier this week: “The TikTok platform is unlicensed and ICE is disappointed an agreement for use of the millions of musical works belonging to the songwriters, composers and publishers we represent has not been reached before this point. We look forward to representing our rightsholders’ interests and securing appropriate value for the vast scale of usage of their repertoire on the platform”.