Do TikTok memes violate copyright law?

The internet has completely changed how artists communicate with fans or a prospective audience. It has enabled visual artists and creators in all mediums to showcase their work and reach many more people than may have been possible in the past. With this newfound popularity, however, comes more opportunities for artists here in New York and elsewhere to have their work stolen or used without permission. One popular app, TikTok, is being blamed for allowing people to violate copyright law by allegedly misusing content made by creators. Do these memes violate the law, or are users in the clear?

To understand this issue, an explanation of TikTok and some of these memes is necessary. TikTok allows users to upload their own videos that have audio created by someone else. The audio may be a song or spoken word created by artists on YouTube or other platforms. Sometimes users will issue a "challenge" to other users involving certain audio, which means that the audio may end up being used thousands of times without a creator's permission. One popular category involves comedic use of beauty products, and at least one YouTube comedienne has spoken out against her audio being used this way.

This trend may not end, however, as many major beauty brands are hoping to cash in the on the popularity of these beauty-related memes. The high profile of these brands could incite users to misuse the creations of artists. It could be extremely difficult for them to fight against a viral TikTok challenge that has been uploaded thousands of times. 

Some content creators may not think to have their work submit for copyright, but as viral videos prove, doing so may be extremely important. If anyone should profit off of the use of an artistic creation, it is the artist who made it. New York artists of any medium may want to reach out to an attorney with extensive experience in copyright law to determine how best to protect their work. 

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