TikTok will restore millions of songs to the platform after settling a dispute with Universal Music Group over royalties.

It means users will once again be able to make videos featuring songs from artists including Billie Eilish and Ariana Grande.

A row over how much TikTok was paying saw the two companies trade accusations – and Universal withdraw some of the world’s most famous singers.

But the rift now appears to have been healed with the firms announcing “improved remuneration” for artists, though they have not revealed how much money will change hands.

In an email to staff seen by the BBC, Universal’s boss Sir Lucian Grainge said TikTok had agreed to “key changes.”

“Under the new agreement, artist and songwriter compensation will be greater than under our prior TikTok deal,” he wrote.

The firms said they were “working expeditiously” to return Universal’s music to TikTok, a process it is understood will take less than two weeks.

This will include restoring the audio to videos which were previously muted during the dispute.

Taylor Swift, perhaps the label’s biggest artist, had already separately agreed to return her music to TikTok – a deal she could make as she owns the copyright to her songs

“Music is an integral part of the TikTok ecosystem and we are pleased to have found a path forward with Universal Music Group,” said TikTok head Shou Zi Chew.

It comes as the social media platform is facing a fight for its very survival in the United States, where it plans to challenge in court a law that could result in it being sold or banned in the country.

More money, less AI

Two of the biggest stars returning to the platform are Drake and The Weeknd, who found themselves in the middle of a row over artificial intelligence (AI) in 2023.

A song that used the tech to clone their voices went viral on TikTok, picking up 15 million views before it was removed.

At the time, Universal Music Group said it violated copyright law.

The deal that will see the two acts return will also build in what the companies are calling “industry-leading protections” around AI on TikTok.

TikTok and Universal said in a statement that they would work together to “protect human artistry” in the face of the tech.

“TikTok is also committed to working with [Universal] to remove unauthorized AI-generated music from the platform, as well as tools to improve artist and songwriter attribution,” they said.

Sir Lucian said the deal meant “fake artist” AI songs could be removed.

“TikTok has now addressed the primary concern we expressed in our open letter that AI-generated content would massively dilute the royalty pool for human artists,” he said.

The platform had also made commitments over the training of AI on music without consent, he said, and he thanked musicians for supporting Universal’s action.

“We will work together to make sure that AI tools are developed responsibly to enable a new era of musical creativity and fan engagement while protecting human creativity,” said TikTok head of music business development Ole Obermann.

Previously, artists including Eilish and Nicki Minaj have called on tech firms to agree to not develop tools that can generate music using AI.

It remains to be seen whether the commitments the two firms have made will fully address those concerns.

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