The Possible Legal Issues of Using Foreign Music in TikTok

TikTok App



Storing your own TikTok clips with the current charts appeals to the audience and can be the first step towards a new TikTok trend. For example, people dance or gesticulate to a piece of music. But even simply adding music to your own video can have a very valuable effect.

TikTok is currently one of the emerging apps and enjoys enormous popularity. But is the use of foreign music allowed? One can certainly say that so many people do that, it can’t be bad or forbidden. But is that really the case?

In this article, we give a brief overview of whether you can simply use foreign music for your TikTok videos.

Copyright protection

First of all, it must be noted that the music integrated in the short videos, often excerpts from the current charts, almost always enjoys copyright protection, so that a license agreement must always be made with the author before use.

Theoretically, it is also possible to enter into the negotiationafteruse, but for understandable reasons it is of course increasingly difficult to make an advantageous arrangement with the other side afterwards.

Owner of rights

So before you use a piece of music, you should clarify who holds the rights of use to the songs. TikTok usually isn’t. The rights to the music are usually held by the artists or their record companies. Frequently, the exploitation and exploitation rights are also transferred to collecting societies. These are institutions that manage the rights to the pieces of music and connect with the users. The licence and the remuneration for it are then to be agreed exclusively with the collecting society.

In this context, most people are probably familiar with GEMA, the Society for Musical Performance and Mechanical Reproduction Rights. On the GEMA website, it is easy to check whether the music title falls within its area of responsibility.

If GEMA is not responsible, a contract must be concluded with the corresponding rights holder for use in the video.

Consequences of Unlicensed Use

But what happens if you use a piece of music without having the necessary licensing rights? If the music is integrated without a license, the rights holder will usually first react with a warning. If a third party infringes the copyright of another, the latter initially has a so-called right to removal and injunctive relief. The claim is directed to the fact that the corresponding video is deleted from the platform TikTok and the injuring party refrains from infringing the rights again by uploading the video.

Both claims are usually asserted in one letter. In principle, the warning is also accompanied by a cease-and-desist declaration with penalty clauses. This is intended to ensure that the injuring party undertakes not to publish the corresponding video again and should he not comply with it to pay a contractual penalty.


ALSO READ: How To Motivate Yourself with Music


The costs for such a warning can easily run into the thousands of euros. In addition, there are fictitious license costs that can be charged for the use of the song.

In addition, a copyright infringement can also have criminal consequences, so that a fine or even imprisonment is possible. According to § 106 UrhG, the distribution and public communication of a work without the consent of the author or in the permitted cases is a criminal offence. However, this usually requires a criminal complaint by the author (§ 109 UrhG) so that the proceedings are ultimately initiated. Even if the penalty is a prison sentence of up to three years, in most cases, especially for first-time offenders, a fine is more likely to be expected.

All participants of the so-called “Jerusalema Challenge” certainly know how to sing a song about it…

Alternative: Stock archives

But there are also providers who offer free stock music. It can be downloaded and used free of charge. It should be noted, however, that the music must be integrated as part of a new, own TikTok clip. Creativity must be given free rein here. However, you should also look into the small print and see if the music has been released for all social media channels.

In addition, it is not a guarantee that the piece of music can really be used for free. This also expressly applies to music provided by TikTok itself. Also, the quality of the content of the music is often not very high.

Other providers usually offer music for use in videos via a kind of subscription model. Videos that were created and uploaded during the subscription period can be equipped with the music offered and usually also monetized – as far as this is currently possible with TikTok. But here, too, you have to look closely at which social media channel the offered music can be used for. TikTok as a very young medium is often not yet included in the contract and may have to be individually renegotiated and included.

Recent developments

There are current efforts to reach licensing agreements with some major record companies so that the music excerpts can be used in the app TikTok. Most recently, the agreement with Sony Music Entertainment made headlines. We will keep you informed about this.

Our conclusion

Simply equipping your own videos on TikTok with third-party music usually violates applicable copyright. This can lead to a warning and considerable lawyer and subsequent license costs. It can also lead to criminal consequences. Before using third-party music, it is therefore imperative to check whether the music may be used under what conditions.