Yesterday, Music Ally broke the news that social app TikTok has referred three collecting societies – PRS for Music, STIM and GEMA – and their joint-venture licensing hub ICE to the UK’s Copyright Tribunal, in a dispute over music-licensing terms.

ICE issued a statement yesterday on the case, but this morning TikTok has also sent Music Ally an official statement on the referral.

“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,” said its spokesperson.

“As part of this, 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.”

ICE’s statement, unsurprisingly given that this is a licensing dispute, offered a different perspective:

“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,” said ICE’s spokesperson.

“Organisations that use and benefit from music must take out a licence in order to do so. We look forward to representing our rightsholders’ interests and securing appropriate value for the vast scale of usage of their repertoire on the platform. Our aim is that by following this legal process TikTok will agree a licence that fairly reflects the value of our rightsholders music.”

All eyes on the Copyright Tribunal process now: as we reported yesterday, other interested parties are being invited to submit their opinions by 16 August.

As we pointed out yesterday, this dispute is separate from TikTok and its parent company Bytedance’s ongoing negotiations with labels over licensing recordings for usage on its service. However, those labels will be monitoring what happens in the Copyright Tribunal closely to see what stance TikTok is taking.

ICE and its founder societies are clearly not happy with the company, but the industry has also seen TikTok’s power when it comes to breaking tracks; slotting in to artist marketing campaigns; and sparking fans’ creativity. Licensing deals that enable all this to thrive, while also fairly rewarding musicians and songwriters, must remain the desired endgame here.

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Music Ally's Head of Insight

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