The NMPA isn’t planning to renew its deal with TikTok. Will any indie publishers join Universal Music Group’s boycott?

The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA)‘s current licensing deal with TikTok – representing the music publishing rights of multiple indie music publishers – expires on April 30.

The US trade body has now told its members that it “does not anticipate that there will be an option to renew or extend the current NMPA licenses or participate in a new license with TikTok through NMPA”.

In a note emailed to partners sent yesterday (March 5) and obtained by MBW, the NMPA told indie publishers that if they want to continue to license their music to TikTok past April 30, they will need to “engage directly” with the platform.

A note from the NMPA to partners/members sent Tuesday (March 5)

Tellingly, the NMPA’s note refers to recent press coverage that has “highlighted concerns around TikTok’s licensing practices” – concerns, it says, that “NMPA has heard directly from many of our members”.

Added the NMPA memo: “It is important that all NMPA members understand that without a license in place, TikTok should not be using your musical works on its platform.

“Starting May 1, 2024, any members who are not licensed with TikTok and would like to discuss enforcement options can contact attorneys at NMPA.”

NMPA, which is led by President and CEO, David Israelite, has previously made a statement in support of Universal Music Group‘s refusal to re-license its recorded music and music publishing to TikTok.

UMG’s license for its recorded music catalog ceased on February 1; the company’s music publishing catalog’s license on the service expired on March 1.

David Israelite said in a statement issued to media in early February: “Music is a driving force behind TikTok’s success and it is extremely unfortunate that TikTok does not seem to value the music creators that fuel its business.

“We believe songwriters should be valued and compensated fairly, and we believe artificial intelligence should never be used to dilute the value of human creativity.”

The NMPA has not confirmed which independent publishers are currently covered under its current two-year TikTok deal, which was signed in 2022.

We do, though, have an idea who might be signed up to the agreement.

In 2019, home exercise company Peloton was sued by the NMPA on behalf of a group of its indie members for alleged copyright infringement. (NMPA reached a deal with Peloton the following year.)

The indie publishers who acted as plaintiffs in that lawsuit were:

The three major music publishers (Sony Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group, and Warner Chappell) typically license their catalogs (or in the case of Universal, don’t license their catalogs!) to platforms like TikTok directly via their parent companies.

As such they ‘opt out’ of NMPA agreements, despite being NMPA members.

The NMPA threatened to sue TikTok/ByteDance for alleged copyright infringement in 2019, before signing a licensing agreement with the platform in 2020.

Judging by the NMPA’s note to partners this week, it appears that the trade body re-upped this deal with TikTok two years later.

In other NMPA news today, the trade body’s lawsuit against Elon Musk’s X (formerly known as Twitter) for – you guessed it – alleged copyright infringement… is moving forward.

The Twitter/X lawsuit was filed in June last year by 17 companies represented by the National Music Publishers Association, including prominent independent companies, as well as major publishers, Sony Music PublishingUniversal Music Publishing Group and Warner Chappell Music.

Their complaint seeks over $250 million in damages for “hundreds of thousands” of alleged infringements of approximately 1,700 works.

Two months on from the launch of that litigation, X filed a motion asking the court to dismiss the complaint.

In a decision published on Tuesday (March 5), Federal Judge Aleta A. Trauger granted X’s motion to dismiss in part, but also denied it in part.Music Business Worldwide