[SMK] Social Media Knowledge


Brands Beware! Music Labels Clamping Down On Unlicensed Music Enforcement

You know the music libraries that TikTok and Reels provide? Well, brands have gotten into hot water for using those songs for marketing purposes.

Two firms – energy drinks company Bang and makeup brand Iconic – have been taken to court for copyright infringement in TikTok and Reels posts.

Bang used music in more than 100 of its videos, while Iconic used over 165 songs without permission.

Warner Lawsuit, via Complete Music Update

“While Iconic’s social media’ commercials’ have been instrumental to Iconic’s success, neither defendants nor their influencer partners have sought permission or paid for the privilege to use the sound recordings and musical compositions that are featured in them.”

Just because the music is available via TikTok or Instagram does not make it available for use in any capacity. For example, TikTok’s terms of service restrict music use to “personal, non-commercial use”, which does not cover marketing materials and promotions.

In the case of Bang, a United States judge ruled in favour of music labels Warner and Song Music in two of the three cases after copyright lawsuits were brought against the brand. Warner Music Group also suited Iconic.

Check your licenses!

The music labels say that marketers must obtain copyright holders’ licenses before using songs to promote products.

Due to the massive fines imposed on it, Bang has just filed for bankruptcy – which is a terrifying reminder of how serious copyright violations can be. Its defence didn’t hold much weight in court, as the company claimed that since TikTok allowed it to use the general music library, it shouldn’t be held liable for copyright violations.

It has also transpired that Bang used a personal profile, not a business one, which is why marketers had access to the general music library. That argument failed to cut the mustard.

Use Commercial library or Creative Commons work!

The safest thing to do to avoid penalties is to ensure that you have permission from them to use the song – or to use TikTok’s commercial music library. The commercial library is a database of more than 500,000 songs that brands can use freely, but it may not include the perfect sound to match your video.

If that’s the case, you need to seek permission from the copyright holder. But even that can be complicated. As copyrights can be held by different entities, obtaining licenses from all parties can be like finding a needle in a haystack.

Mark Tavern, music licensing executive and lecturer at the University of New Haven, via Bloomberg Law

“If you think about a popular hit song at the moment, there might be five or 10 co-writers, each of whom has a different publisher. So that situation can become super difficult.”

What is TikTok’s commercial music library?


If negotiating with big labels for the rights to songs is a bit of a stretch for your brand, consider using TikTok’s commercial music library. As mentioned, all the sounds are pre-cleared for commercial use and are available for marketing, advertising, sponsorships, endorsements and promotions.

The library is the safest way brands can use music on TikTok – and also one of the easiest. However, it may not include the perfect tune for you, so if you need something a bit special, you’d better get the phone book out and dial up your favourite lawyer ‘cos you’ll need to start negotiating with a music label.

TikTok Ads

“Commercial Music Library sounds are available in the TikTok Sounds library for all users. All of sounds in the Commercial Music Library are licensed worldwide, available for unlimited use within TikTok’s ecosystem.”

To select a pre-cleared song, follow these steps:

  1. From the mobile app, go to ‘Add sound.’
  2. Then click on ‘Commercial Sounds.’
  3. From there, you can browse the songs at your leisure. You can also add to your ‘Favourites’ section or see what’s happening in the ‘Discover’ tab.

The Commerical Music Library can also be accessed on your desktop.

  1. Follow this link.
  2. Select the market where it will run to view what music is available in the region.
  3. From here, you can browse and select commercial sounds.

Creative Commons lowdown and different licenses types

For businesses that don’t have the resources to independently licence music, or don’t want to use the right-free options provided by TikTok or Reels, Creative Commons (CC) could provide a solution.

Creative Commons lets you use “some right reserved” music for free. The catch? The music has to be marked with a Creative Commons licence. However, you must still check to see that the Creative Commons licence lets you use the music for promotional purposes and ensure it is not licensed under a No Derivative Works license.

A No Derivative Works license means that you can’t use it under a video. You must also credit the musician and the track and say that it’s licenced under Creative Commons.

There are six license types under Creative Commons. They are:

  1. CC BY lets users distribute, remix, adapt and build upon any material. It’s available for commercial use and credit must be given to the creator.
  2. CC BY-SA lets users distribute, remix, adapt and build upon any materials. It’s available for commercial use, however if you remix, adapt or build upon the material it must be licensed under identical terms.
  3. CC BY-NC lets user distribute, remix, adapt and build upon material for non-commercial purposes as long as attribution is given.
  4. CC BY-NC-SA lets user distribute, remix, adapt and build upon material for non-commercial purposes as long as attribution is given. If you remix, adapt, or build upon the material, you must license the modified material under identical terms.
  5. CC BY-ND lets users copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use.
  6. CC BY-NC-ND allows users to copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator.

*Photo by Goh Rhy Yan on Unsplash

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