How to Follow Social Media Law on TikTok: Music Copyright Edition

Most content creators who are educated on social media law are aware of the serious consequences of music 🎵 copyright infringement by influencers.

For example, three copyright strikes on YouTube result in permanent channel termination. Plus, copyright flags on Instagram can result in post removal or app accessibility restrictions.

While social media music copyright guidelines are typically pretty straightforward, the newest social media craze, TikTok, presents some new challenges for influencers – and unfortunately, the solutions may not be as simple 🤷‍♂️.


In 2018, the popular app Music.ly, a lip-synching social platform, evolved into TikTok. 

Thus, due to its origins, TikTok trends are largely music-based, and often involve lip-synching, dancing 🕺, and even acting while trending songs play in the background.

However, you may be wondering… how do TikTok users get away with it? 💭

In other words, if music copyright is such a huge problem for so many influencers, how do TikTok users post so much content with copyrighted music? In reality, they’re not abiding by the doctrine of fair use, and they don’t seem to be purchasing rights to the songs.

While I ALWAYS advise my clients to use no more than one to three seconds ⏱️ of ANY copyrighted song in their social media posts, TikTok is a different kind of beast…

TikTok’s Music Library: Purchased or Stolen?

TikTok, a bit like YouTube, has its own library of music for users to include in their videos without risking copyright infringement. In fact, this music 🎼 library makes up a decent portion of their business model!

Additionally, TikTok hosts a large library of royalty free music, often from new and upcoming artists who want to gain exposure.

However, when it comes to music from top artists like Billie Eilish and Harry Styles, things get a little more complicated 😰.

According to representatives from the platform, copyrighted music appears on the app because TikTok pays royalties 💰 for the licenses. However, some music publishers, including Universal Music, have threatened TikTok with copyright lawsuits, claiming that they never actually purchased royalties to many of their hit songs. 

These claims may be supported by recent updates from TikTok, with which “verified business organizations” may only use royalty free music in their videos. 

Ultimately, unless the platform comes clean, there’s no 🙅‍♂️ sure way of knowing whether TikTok actually has the right to offer users access to its full music library. 

What Does This Mean for You?

When it comes to social media law, TikTok’s copyright policy “[does] not allow posting, sharing, or sending any content that violates or infringes someone else’s copyrights, trademarks or other intellectual property rights.” 

Plus, penalties for copyright infringement on TikTok, also like YouTube and Instagram, include video takedowns ⬇️ and potential account termination for repeat offenders.

That being said, while DMCA takedowns do happen on TikTok, you probably won’t face any legal trouble for using music that appears in the app’s music library. While TikTok may eventually face lawsuits for their use of copyrighted music, penalties will most likely not trickle down to the users.

However, as in all situations, it’s best to err on the side of caution ⚠️ when using music on TikTok. Feel free to use the music the app provides, but consider the doctrine of fair use BEFORE adding your own music.

As always, ask yourself, “Am I transforming this material?” and “Am I infringing upon the creator’s rights?” 🤔, and do not post if you are unsure.

That said, if copyright flags make you nervous, you may want to stick to the royalty free content provided by TikTok. However, note that your success on the app may suffer as a result. 

Therefore, you may be better off on Instagram or YouTube.

Finally, if you ever have any questions concerning the music you’re using on TikTok or social media law in general, consult a social media attorney. We are always here to provide guidance 🤝 and keep you out of legal trouble.