UMPG Acknowledges TikTok Removals ‘Might Be Uncomfortable’ As Licensing Dispute Shows Few Signs of Resolving

umpg tiktok dispute
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umpg tiktok dispute
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UMPG’s Santa Monica headquarters. Photo Credit: Coolcaesar

Late last month, it emerged that the TikTok-Universal Music licensing showdown was expanding to the publishing side. Now, Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG) has penned a new statement on the subject, recognizing that the situation “might be uncomfortable at the moment” for its songwriters.

UMPG just recently put out the approximately 300-word comments, having provided an initial update on the TikTok dispute at the time of the underlying agreement’s January expiration. As noted, the impasse’s mass-muting reached compositions earlier this week – making a number of works, among them an array of popular K-pop projects, unavailable on the app.

Significantly, in its latest comments on the matter, UMPG once again emphasized the perceived shortcomings associated with TikTok’s AI and user-safety policies.

“As we previously addressed in our open letter,” the publisher wrote, “in addition to fair compensation for your songs, the negotiations have also focused on two other critical and equally important issues: protecting you, human artists and songwriters, from the harmful effects of AI; and online safety for TikTok’s users, including your fans which include young children.”

Coupled with similarly critical comments made by execs during Universal Music’s Q4 earnings call, the remarks appear to suggest that any recent discussions failed to deliver material progress toward a resolution. Like we pointed out when exploring the high-stakes disagreement at length, the process of overcoming purely monetary hang-ups seems straightforward enough.

But qualms pertaining to AI training procedures and user safety are a different story, particularly given the need for TikTok to acknowledge the alleged “important issues” in order to rectify them. Of course, it’s not a coincidence that Universal Music, following multiple lawsuits, sizable fines, and ample bipartisan criticism against TikTok, is only now voicing the concerns.

Back to the newest statement from UMPG, the publisher further highlighted TikTok’s “increasingly apparent” AI intentions, citing reports on the subject and reiterating the broader perception “that they simply do not value your music.”

“We understand the disruption is difficult for some of you and your careers, and we are sensitive to how this may affect you around the world,” UMPG communicated. “We recognize that this might be uncomfortable at the moment. But it is critical for the sustained future value, safety and health of the entire music ecosystem, including all music fans.

“As always, UMPG will only support partners that value songwriters, artists and your songs.  We have a long history of successfully fighting for our songwriters and will continue to do so. You should expect nothing less from us,” the publisher concluded.