TikTok is in huge trouble.
TikTok built its empire off popular music — but now it's losing access to a ton of it.
In a statement, Universal Music Group said it has chosen to "call time out on TikTok" to pressure the social network for better rules on artificial intelligence, online safety, and artist compensation for its roster, which includes such luminaries as Taylor Swift, Drake, and BTS.
"Today, as an indication of how little TikTok compensates artists and songwriters, despite its massive and growing user base, rapidly rising advertising revenue and increasing reliance on music-based content, TikTok accounts for only about 1 percent of our total revenue," the statement reads.
The label went on to charge the social network with not only allowing AI-generated infringements of its artists' work, but also actively encouraging it, helping users generate it, and, audaciously, "demanding a contractual right which would allow this content to massively dilute the royalty pool for human artists, in a move that is nothing short of sponsoring artist replacement by AI."
Though the statement doesn't mention Swift by name, it appears to reference the recent scandal surrounding lewd and pornographic AI-generated images of her when calling out TikTok for its content takedown process, which is only enforced piecemeal and post-by-post.
"The only means available to seek the removal of infringing or problematic content (such as pornographic deepfakes of artists) is through the monumentally cumbersome and inefficient process which equates to the digital equivalent of 'Whack-a-Mole,'" the statement reads.
Per the statement's recounting, TikTok responded to UMG's concerns "first with indifference, and then with intimidation" by trying to "bully" the label into accepting a deal worth less than its initial proffer by "selectively removing the music of certain of our developing artists, while keeping on the platform our audience-driving global stars."
This is, notably, not the first time UMG has taken a stand against AI.
Last year, the label went on a veritable crusade against an AI-generated song meant to sound like rappers Aubrey "Drake" Graham and Abel "The Weeknd" Tesfaye, two of its biggest artists. Named "Heart on My Sleeve," the song was repeatedly taken off Spotify and TikTok, but kept cropping back up, Hydra-like, in a manner that seemed to mightly peeve UMG.
"We will not hesitate to take steps to protect our rights and those of our artists," a label spokesperson told the Financial Times of the allegedly-infringing song.
Indeed, as its contract with TikTok is set to expire at the end of the day, it seems very clear that UMG is walking the walk — and that the bottom line here is, well, its bottom line.
More on AI and social media: Twitter's Idiotic Response to AI Porn: Block All Searches for “Taylor Swift”
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