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Music on TikTok, Instagram & Co. - Which content are influencers allowed to use for their posts?

A short dance, a song excerpt and a catchy song line - that's the secret recipe for a viral video. With thousands of short videos on the Internet, the the video platform TikTok is without a doubt extremely popular. This raises new legal challenges for influencers, in addition to the familiar questions about advertising. Which music content is actually allowed to be used on TikTok, Instagram & Co.?

The song excerpts of a TikTok dance are usually protected by copyright. On the one hand, this concerns the song lyrics and the music composition. On the other hand, however, the audio carrier is also protected as a separate ancillary copyright. Many stakeholders are involved in this context - collecting societies, composers, artists, labels and music publishers. For influencers, it can thus be difficult to figure out which license agreements need to be concluded with whom.

Platforms like TikTok and Instagram have come up with a solution for their users and simply signed agreements with various rights holders themselves. The platforms can therefore provide their users with various song excerpts that they can use without hesitation.

However, according to the platforms' terms of use, this often only applies to non-commercial use and thus not to the commercial use by influencers for advertising purposes or even for self-promotion. This means that influencers are not allowed to use these song excerpts without their own licenses - no matter how short they are. In particular, there is no de minimis limit for 15-second music excerpts for commercial purposes.

However, TikTok even provides a commercial music library. Songs from this repertoire may also be used by so-called commercial users such as influencers for their videos to promote a product or for other commercial purposes.

But what if a song is to be used that does not come from the platforms' library? In this case, influencers must obtain all necessary licenses themselves. In doing so, they must pay particular attention to which types of use are covered by these licenses. Indeed, an original sound uploaded to TikTok may subsequently be used by other non-commercial or commercial users - a fact that should be taken into account in licensing practices.


Anna Kellner

Dr. Anna Kellner


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