TikTok’s Copyright Clash with Universal Impacts Creators and Music Promotion

Published February 9, 2024

TikTok's vibrant content scene recently hit a silent patch due to a licensing fallout between the social platform and Universal Music Group (UMG). Patrick Hicks, known for sharing music history with his near half-million TikTok followers, found himself caught in a soundless void after the platform muted his videos in response to UMG's instruction to pull unlicensed music.

The Sound of Silence

Hicks specializes in crafting storytelling videos that play song clips to engage his audience. However, with UMG pulling the plug, the sounds that once enlivened his productions vanished, leaving a hollow silence in their wake. The standoff isn’t exclusive to his channel; it affects countless creators and even UMG's own signed artists, who cannot use their music to capitalize on TikTok's powerful promotional potential. The loss of this music has a particular sting since TikTok charts on Billboard reflect the platform's ability to revive and popularize tracks.

An Unexpected Silence

Hicks expressed surprise at the scope of the takedown, which left many creators without an appeal option, stranding them in a silent expanse of content. He anticipated a removal of UMG tracks from TikTok's sound library—not a complete muting of existing content. Over a vast catalog of Universal artists, avoiding this content is a challenge for Hicks and others looking to create engaging and educational music videos.

TikTok's Music Industry Imprint

Such unprecedented measures highlight the significance of TikTok in the music industry. With its unique model, the platform has become a launchpad for artists and a renaissance stage for classics. It is integral to the discovery of new talent and the resurgence of timeless hits, as with Fleetwood Mac's 'Dreams,' which climbed the charts decades after release, thanks to a single viral TikTok video.

History Repeats Itself?

This controversy bears resemblance to past fears around new technology, from the cassette tape alarms of the 1980s to litigations faced by platforms like MySpace. Yet TikTok stands out for its deep integration with music, creating a complex puzzle of rights and revenue.

The Fallout

The real victims here might be the smaller UMG artists whose emerging hits suddenly fall silent, stifling their viral ascent. For creators like Hicks, it’s not just about visibility, but about conveying the full experience of the music they discuss, now marred by the absence of sound.

A Hopeful Resolution

The best-case scenario envisions a truce between TikTok and UMG, a restoration of music to the platform, and a wiser approach to copyright policy similar to Instagram’s appeal process or YouTube’s non-monetized yet audible compromise.

music, creator, copyright