The intensely popular short-form video sharing app TikTok has been facing its share of individual and class action lawsuits and claims. The app, owned by Beijing-based company ByteDance, is notably facing copyright infringement charges and accusations of illegal data sharing. Here are five of the most talked about cases over the past year:
1. VNG vs TikTok
VNG, a Vietnamese technology firm is currently suing TikTok for copyright infringement, claiming that the app does not have the proper licenses for the songs being used in its videos. The company alleges that audio files owned by its subsidiary, Zing, were used without consent. A legal document filed at the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City by VNG requests TikTok to remove all music from Zing with compensation of over $9.5 million.
2. Muzeit vs. TikTok
The popular music discovery and sharing app, Muzeit, filed a petition for cancellation against TikTok, claiming the app had stolen the design of their logo. The copyright infringement petition is ongoing as Muzeit claims having patented their logo in 2015, a full two years before TikTok was released in its current form. U.K.-based Muzeit filed this cancellation proceeding to stop TikTok from using a very similar music note design as their logo, citing ‘reverse confusion’ and the possibility of mistaking the two apps based on their logos as their reasoning.
3. Triller vs TikTok
In another ongoing case, TikTok’s competitor Triller is filing a patent infringement suit against the viral app. Triller allege that TikTok has been pirating their patented technology, which uses audio tracks to edit multiple videos together. The plaintiff claims that TikTok has violated the video format they patented in 2017 and that the app continues to violate their U.S. trademark. Triller is seeking damages, and will be filing an injunction against ByteDance to preempt any further attempts at infringement.
4. Parents vs TikTok
Back in December 2019, two American families filed a lawsuit against TikTok claiming that ByteDance had tracked, collected, and disclosed personal contact information, including names, phone numbers, emails, of minors to a third party. Under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), apps available to children cannot collect personal information of minors under 13 without parental consent, or that of a legal guardian. TikTok settled the lawsuit just a day later, in part by creating a fund of $1.1 million to be distributed to the plaintiffs. An objection was filed against the settlement and the case was reopened.
5. Teenagers vs TikTok
In May 2020, four anonymous minors living in Illinois, represented by their legal guardians, sued TikTok and ByteDance for violations of an Illinois law that protects against the sharing of biometric data, including fingerprints, facial mapping, and iris scans. The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco federal court, is one of several similar cases being filed that allege TikTok has unlawfully been sharing personal information.
6. Class action lawsuits vs TikTok
In 2020, several cases emerged in which users complain that TikTok has been collecting biometric data and sharing it with servers in China. Twenty separate federal lawsuits were filed over the past year and are now being presented as one massive case against the app. Most lawsuits, which for the greatest part concern the privacy of minors, were either filed in California, where the company’s offices are located, and Illinois, which has some of the strictest laws against data sharing in the country.