Home » TikTok begins removing Universal Music publishing songs, expanding royalty battle

TikTok begins removing Universal Music publishing songs, expanding royalty battle

by NBC News

The bruising battle over royalties between Universal Music Group and TikTok entered a new and more severe stage in the early hours of Tuesday as songs published by UMG began to be removed from the platform.

The standoff, which began earlier this month, initially saw recordings owned or distributed by UMG removed from the platform, but now is extending to a much larger number of songs by including those published by the company.

The situation, accompanied by a bellicose war of words from both sides, pits UMG — the world’s largest music company — against TikTok — the most influential platform for promoting music for the past five years — as they continue to fail to renew their licensing agreement, which expired on Jan. 31.

The reach of this latest move is broad, as it effects a vast number of recordings not issued by a UMG-owned label, and many artists who have collaborated with songwriters under contract to Universal Music Publishing Group. Videos featuring those songs must either be removed from the platform or have the music on them muted. (UMG, a Dutch American-owned company, has no relation to NBC Universal, the parent company of NBC News.)

While the scope of the move is complex — artists and songwriters may have differing deals in different territories — sources tell Variety that the initial move is focused on “Anglo-American” repertoire. UMPG’s vast stable of writers includes such top creators as Adele, Justin Bieber, Mariah Carey, Ice Spice, Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Metallica, Metro Boomin, Harry Styles, Taylor Swift, SZA, the Weeknd, and many others.

Considering the large number of songwriters and publishers credited on most contemporary hit songs, it was unclear just how much music will be affected, or where the two companies might draw the line over whether or not a song is controlled by UMPG — for example, if one of seven writers on a song is under contract to Universal. Opinions differ widely: Sources close to UMG claim…

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