If you enjoyed witnessing Universal Music Group withdraw its entire library off TikTok, you’ll adore what could happen next.

Universal Music Group vs. TikTok has been an exciting matchup for fans of high-stakes showdowns between large media organizations and internet titans. However, what comes next may require a fresh bowl of popcorn.

According to various sources who have leaked information to Digital Music News, UMG has been bombarding TikTok with DMCA takedown notices since its strict content removals in late January. But this could be a prelude to more severe legal action in the coming weeks.

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One estimate put the number of takedown notices submitted at ‘in the tens of thousands,’ with TikTok purportedly still hosting massive amounts of UMG-controlled content despite the recent pulldown.

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A portion of the problem involves changed or modified music. Most songs are sped up, even little, but there are several tweaks available on TikTok. These altered copies are more difficult to find and remove, but they are equally violating. The scenario has compelled UMG to put teeth into its takedown and pursue remaining music on the platform.

In the United States, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) requires user-generated platforms to delete illegal content when formally alerted. If the platform does not promptly delete the content in response to a genuine request, it may face substantial infringement penalties.

That isn’t new; rights holders like UMG have been issuing DMCA takedown notices for decades. However, according to sources, the takedown notices are only the first stage in a potentially serious legal onslaught on TikTok and its Chinese owner, Byte Dance.

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According to people familiar with the situation, UMG is not only looking to remove its music from the popular social media platform, but also to hold TikTok accountable for failing to comply with the repeat infringer policy, which is required under the DMCA.

In a word, the DMCA’s repeat infringement policy requires platforms to establish a system for deleting the accounts of repeat infringers or face severe penalties or legal action. In the instance of TikTok, it appears that repeat infringers are not subject to account suspensions or removals, implying that TikTok is either unwilling or unable to successfully remove these problematic accounts from its platform.

And this could be a significant problem for TikTok.

Suddenly, a more complex strategy appears. UMG aims to remove copyrighted content, but their flood of DMCA takedowns may also be aimed at a significant flaw in TikTok’s content management policy.

“Sure, these DMCA takedown notices are part of UMG’s dispute with TikTok, but the goal isn’t really about scrubbing UMG’s music from TikTok,” a person familiar with the matter said.

Universal Music Group has yet to comment, and it is unknown whether legal action will be taken. Separately, the parties are said to be in the midst of a negotiation process, albeit such conversations have yet to yield results.

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Meanwhile, it is claimed that UMG is not only thinking, but actively preparing to take legal action within weeks, with the DMCA’s repeat infringer clause being a key component of their impending lawsuits. “They’re not just sending notices; they’re meticulously tracking TikTok’s response to users who have been the subject of multiple notices,” the source stated, adding that “TikTok’s inaction” on its repeat infringement issue is a major concern.

Separately, one informant reported that ‘probably more’ than 100 million TikTok videos are being muted. That may exclude videos containing modified music material, either for fun or to avoid detection by UMG or TikTok.

The removal of a large number of videos from TikTok, now in its eleventh week, has understandably sparked a wave of resentment among content providers and audiences. Strategically, TikTok is willing to ride out those concerns, maybe due to the prominence of modified solutions on the platform. Separately, Taylor Swift’s decision to “cross the picket line” and license TikTok makes things easier for ByteDance.

Dropping the hammer on TikTok allows UMG to protect its intellectual assets while also sending a strong statement. In that setting, the Taylor Swift scenario, described as “a big fat disappointment” by one UMG insider, sparked fears about the possibility of more superstars defecting, further weakening UMG’s position.

In reaction to UMG’s aggressive takedown campaign, some content providers are resorting to royalty-free music or independently published recordings to continue their work unhindered by copyright disputes.