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TikTok ends its beef with ICE, agrees licensing deal

By | Published on Friday 27 November 2020


TikTok has agreed a licensing deal with ICE, which brings to an end a legal dispute between the video-sharing app and the copyright hub that is owned by collecting societies STIM, GEMA and PRS.

That legal dispute began in July last year when it emerged that TikTok was taking ICE to the UK copyright tribunal, a special court that can intervene when there is a licensing dispute between a user of music and a collecting society.

That dispute came as TikTok was busy trying to get licensing deals in place with both the record industry and the music publishing sector to cover all the music that is swimming around the video-sharing platform.

ICE’s Core licence covers a load of song rights, including the repertoires of Swedish society STIM and German society GEMA, and those works controlled by UK society PRS and Irish society IMRO that are not otherwise covered by publisher negotiated deals.

The Anglo-American catalogues of some of ICE’s publisher clients – like Concord, Downtown, Songtrust and Peer Music – are also part of that licence.

TikTok’s decision to go to the copyright tribunal suggested that ICE was driving a hard bargain in its licensing talks. Had that legal action gone through the motions, it would have been interesting to see how the tribunal responded.

That court exists mainly to overcome the competition law concerns created by collective licensing, when the music industry basically licences as one. But – while some PRS rights are included in the ICE Core licence – it does not include the full PRS repertoire. So, from a UK perspective, you could argue there aren’t any competition law issues when ICE negotiates digital deals.

However, the legal manoeuvre was possibly always more of a negotiating tactic than anything else. At the time TikTok said: “We look forward to continuing the conversation with ICE and reaching an agreement that furthers the opportunity for artists and songwriters on the platform”.

Though ICE stated that it was looking forward to “representing our rightsholders’ interests and securing appropriate value for the vast scale of usage of their repertoire on the platform”.

Whatever, a deal has now been done.

The two parties said in a short matter-of-fact statement earlier today: “ICE and TikTok announce that they have reached agreement on terms to license the TikTok platform in respect of the musical works represented by the ICE Core. This multi-year deal covers TikTok – and its predecessors – from launch and establishes a flow of royalty payments to songwriters and publishers”.

TikTok’s predecessor, of course, is, the lip-syncing app TikTok absorbed on its way to becoming a global phenomenon.

Elsewhere in TikTok legal news, the US government has again extended the deadline for the app’s owner Bytedance to comply with the second of President Donald Trump’s TikTok-targeting executive orders, the one stating that China-owned Bytedance must sell off all its American assets.

Bytedance is hoping that a deal with American companies Oracle and Walmart will sufficiently placate its critics in Washington and result in that executive order – and another currently-on-hold order banning Americans from using TikTok – being withdrawn.

The asset sale order was due to come into force earlier this month, but the deadline was then pushed back to today. It’s now been extended to 4 Dec. It remains to be seen if Bytedance can persuade Team Trump to approve its Oracle/Walmart deal and call off its executive orders by the end of next week.