When YouTube first launched, the ability to easily share video content led to both rampant creation and infringement of copyright. With respect to the latter, people frequently uploaded videos containing clips or the entirety of movies, TV shows, and popular songs. This led to a vast Content ID program to report, detect and remove infringing material.

But a few years ago you might have noticed that YouTube starting working better, at least in respect of music. Specifically, some videos with songs in them stopped getting taken down. Behind the scenes, this is because YouTube struck blanket deals with record labels, societies and rights owners. Now, in some cases music could be added to a video by a user, and YouTube could use its ad revenues on the video to pay the copyright owners.

But if a streaming platform like YouTube features any music that isn’t properly licensed, the risks persist. Triller is a video-based social networking service, based around short-form videos. The platform allows users to automatically edit their videos and sync them to popular songs. If a recent lawsuit has merit, Triller may have failed to secure at least some of the rights necessary to allow its users to sync to songs controlled by Wixen Publishing.

The music licensing world is unfortunately messy – a service like Triller might require multiple licenses with multiple organizations, and the scope and parties might vary depending on the context of use (streaming, downloading, syncing to video, jurisdiction, etc.). One of my goals on this blog in the coming months will be to demystify music copyright, at least from a Canadian perspective.

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