Universal Music Group, one of the largest music companies in the industry, just announced that they would be pulling their music from platforms like TikTok effective immediately. This is huge news in the world of content creation as Universal’s catalog includes some of the biggest artists in pop music like Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo, Drake, and Bad Bunny.

If you’re someone trying to navigate the many intricate rules and regulations surrounding what music you can use in your videos for different social channels like TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and the like, then this bombshell case serves as a simple reminder that you should NEVER use music that you don’t own. Or any songs that you haven’t secured from a trusted source.

Let’s take a deeper look at what’s going on with this Universal decision, and where it leaves content creators who might have tried to use music that they didn’t have a claim to.

What Happened with Universal Music and TikTok?

According to reports from The New York Times, Universal Music Group has pulled its music from TikTok because its license agreement was expiring and renewal talks had broken down. The license expired at the end of January 2024 and TikTok has already begun the process of removing Universal-published music from their platform.

In the immediate, this means that Universal artists (like Taylor Swift, Drake, etc…) will not be available to browse or choose from when creating new videos on the platform. However, many other issues are set to come out of this controversy as creators will have to be extra mindful about what songs they use in their videos.

In particular, content creators on TikTok have always had the option to upload their music or songs to play in the background of their videos. However, to do this TikTok has required users to confirm that they have permission to use the music, which often isn’t the case.

How to Use Music From Trusted Sources on TikTok

Ultimately, the only real way to ensure that you’re using music that you’re allowed to use on platforms like TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, etc… is to go through secure, trusted channels. There are some examples of creators finding content that is usable via the public domain, but those can be tricky at times too.

Your best option will always be to use royalty-free music from sites like Tunetank. Royalty-free music sites can guarantee that the songs that you license have compensated the artists fairly, and will be able to prove to TikTok and other platforms that you truly have permission to use the music in your videos.

If you’d like to explore the best way to search for royalty-free music for your videos that fully covers all copyright issues, then you can get started here.

What Happens if You Upload Someone Else’s Copyrighted Music?

With this news from Universal, things are going to get tricky for any content creators who upload someone else’s copyrighted music going forward. By default, if a copyright owner like Universal has discovered that you’ve used their songs in your videos without permission, they’re going to request TikTok to take your content down.

TikTok will then remove the music from your videos. If you disagree with the ruling, you can submit a counter-notification to have your video restored. However, unless you have proof that the song is either music you created yourself or unless you have permission in writing to use it (like royalty-free music services provide), then the decision will stand.

TikTok itself has its own ACR capability to detect copyrighted music in its users’ videos, so even if Universal itself doesn’t reach out to TikTok, the company is actively monitoring its users’ videos to scan for music that isn’t copyright protected.

Again, your best option will always be to steer clear of this whole fiasco and to use royalty-free music that comes from a trusted source to keep your content clean and clear of any copyright issues.

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