TikTok pulls Taylor Swift, Weeknd in rights feud

Taylor Swift performs in Arlington, Texas in March 2023 – Copyright AFP/File SUZANNE CORDEIRO

Music by Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, The Beatles and other artists can no longer be heard on TikTok after a breakdown in negotiations with music group Universal over compensation.

All recorded music licensed to Universal Music Group has been removed from TikTok’s music library since Thursday, and all videos containing music licensed by Universal have been muted.

The previous licensing agreement between UMG and TikTok expired on January 31st.

After the talks broke down, Universal on Tuesday accused TikTok of “trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music.”

Among the issues raised in the negotiations were appropriate compensation for artists and songwriters, online safety for users, and the protection of artists from the harms of artificial intelligence, the company added.

TikTok said in a statement that it was “sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists.”

Universal’s repertoire of artists is immense and includes Kendrick Lamar, U2 and Bob Dylan.

Despite TikTok’s large user base, it accounts for just about one percent of Universal’s total revenue, the label said.

Universal noted other problems such as large amounts of AI-generated recordings on the platform, alongside what it called a lack of effort to deal with infringements on artists’ music.

Owned by Chinese company ByteDance, TikTok is one of the most popular social media platforms globally, with more than one billion users.

It is a major onramp for emerging artists and used as a promotional tool by music labels.

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