The NMPA’s TikTok deal has officially ended. What does that mean for independent publishers in the US?

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

The US trade body told its members last month that it wasn’t planning to extend the deal and that if they wanted to continue to license their music to TikTok beyond the April 30 deadline, they would need to “engage directly” with the platform.

NMPA President & CEO David Israelite confirmed to MBW this week that the NMPA is “not engaging in an extension of its deal”.

Said Israelite: “Music is essential to TikTok. As we have said, we are not engaging in an extension of our deal. We are hopeful that the platform comes to the table with music publishers and compensates songwriters properly – their service depends on it.”

The expiration of the NMPA’s deal with TikTok means that, as of today (May 1), music controlled by indie publishers represented by the trade body who haven’t unilaterally agreed a new direct agreement with TikTok, will be unlicensed for use on the platform. (The three major music companies agree – or in the case of Universal, don’t agree – their own music publishing deals with TikTok.)

In a memo shared with NMPA members last month, the org said: “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.”

The NMPA also offered to help indie publishers take legal action against ByteDance‘s platform in the event of their music being used without a direct license.

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

News of the NMPA’s intention to let its deal with TikTok lapse followed Universal Music Group‘s refusal to re-license its recorded music and music publishing to TikTok.

On March 1, Universal Music Publishing’s catalog of ~4 million songs became unlicensed for use on TikTok, joining UMG’s portfolio of ~3 million recordings, whose license on TikTok expired (so far without renewal) on February 1.

The NMPA’s David Israelite previously made a statement in support of Universal Music Group, telling 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.”

He added: “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.”

David Israelite, NMPA

“Music is essential to TikTok. As we have said, we are not engaging in an extension of our deal. We are hopeful that the platform comes to the table with music publishers and compensates songwriters properly – their service depends on it.”

David Israelite, NMPA

So now that the NMPA’s deal has come to an end, where does that leave independent publishers?

A TikTok spokesperson told MBW on Tuesday (April 30) that the app has “direct deals in place with thousands of music publishers – including NMPA members – and we will continue to engage with the entire publishing industry to help make their songs available on TikTok”.

That means that music represented by NMPA will remain (legally) available on TikTok, but it is not clear at this stage which publishers have engaged directly with TikTok, and which ones haven’t.

MBW understands, however, that direct negotiations between TikTok and the remaining publishers are ongoing.

We also don’t know which independent publishers have, up until now, been covered under the NMPA’s two-year TikTok deal, which was signed in 2022, because the NMPA hasn’t confirmed that detail.

As we noted last month, however, we do have an idea who might have been signed up to the agreement.

The NMPA sued fitness technology company Peloton in 2019 for alleged copyright infringement on behalf of a group of its indie members, reaching a deal with the firm the following year.

The indie publishers who acted as plaintiffs in the Peloton lawsuit were:

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

The NMPA’s note to its partners last month appeared to indicate that the trade body renewed its deal with TikTok two years later (in 2022).

The three major music publishers (Sony Music PublishingUniversal Music Publishing Group, and Warner Chappell) typically license their catalogs to platforms like TikTok directly via their parent companies.

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

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