We've all probably experienced the phenomenon of cascading bad luck, wherein misfortune piles upon itself until we feel that fate has conspired against us. The alarm doesn't go off, the car won't start, work projects go awry —eventually we feel like kindred spirits with Job. But however bad our toughest periods might have been, we can at least take comfort in the fact that we're not TikTok.
The social media platform, which has handle left the news for the past three months, is back in the headlines, this time as the subject of a copyright infringement case in Vietnam. According to Reuters, the Vietnamese firm VNG is taking TikTok to court on claims that the app doesn't have permission or license for the songs used in videos created by users, specifically songs owned by VNG subsidiary Zing.
Issues of copyrighted music in user-created videos are a thorny matter that other platforms have wrestled with, and continue to wrestle with. Offering songs for use within the app is more intentional than simply permitting users to use those same songs of their own accord, but both are violations that will draw the ire of rightsholders eventually, as is the case with VNG. TikTok has a similar choice faced by its predecessors: work out a licensing agreement with those rightsholders, start flagging content and risk losing some of their engagement, or face a barrage of lawsuits for doing nothing.
The case would be more manageable if it were the only thing on the company's plate besides its exponential growth, but notably the company has a few irons in the proverbial legal fire. In addition to this suit, it's facing a patent lawsuit from Trillist claiming infringement on what is the essence of Tiktok: a method of syncing music to videos. And both cases are prelude to the biggest issue facing TikTok, which is that it finds itself in the crosshairs of the current administration, the target of a ban in the US unless it finds an American buyer in short order, allegedly over privacy concerns.
It's not unusual to see successful tech companies as the subject of scrutiny and legal challenge as they rise to prominence; at this point, it seems almost a right of passage. But it's hard to recall a company that has faced so much all at once, and so quickly; a mere eighteen months ago old people like myself were barely aware of TikTok's existence, and now it's a fixture of the news, albeit for the wrong reasons and with plenty of company in 2020. Given what's happened, TikTok is probably praying for the day their luck changes and they can go back to being invisible to those over the age of thirty.