31 August 2022CopyrightMuireann Bolger

Multinational music company sues video-sharing app over ‘brazen’ infringement

Label accuses Tik-Tok rival of owing millions of dollars in licensing fees | Triller argues that the lawsuit “grossly mischaracterised” contractual relationship.

Sony Music has accused video sharing app Triller of breaching a copyright agreement and of owing millions of dollars in licensing fees in a new lawsuit.

The entertainment conglomerate filed the complaint at the  US Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York on Monday, 29 August.

According to the lawsuit, Triller entered into a content distribution agreement with Sony Music in 2016, but has failed and refused to make the required licensing payments to Sony Music since March this year.

‘Brazen contempt’

The lawsuit held that despite extolling the importance and value of “innovative technology and IP”, Triller had displayed “brazen contempt” for the IP rights of Sony Music, and those of its artists.

Sony claimed that by these alleged actions, Triller had infringed the copyrights of musicians and singers ranging from Janis Joplin to Britney Spears and Harry Styles.

The Triller app allows users to search for and pick a sound recording from Triller’s audio library to listen to and include in a “ ”.

These videos are then posted to the Triller App, allowing other users to stream or download the videos.

The Los Angeles-based company revealed that it has raised over $300 million in funding and has over 300 million users, and plans to go public by the fourth quarter of 2022.

Reduced incentives

Sony’s lawsuit stated that “when companies exploit Sony Music’s sound recording for commercial benefit without authorisation”, neither Sony Music nor its artists “see a dime”.

“Not only does this harm Sony Music and the artists by depriving them of compensation, but it harms the public at large by reducing the incentive to invest in the creation and dissemination of new music,” contended the complaint.

In response to Triller’s alleged failure to make the due payment in March and April 2022, Sony Music contacted Triller in April 2022 enquiring when it could expect payment.

But Sony held that Triller had “stonewalled” in response, and failed to provide any subsequent payments in May, June, July, or July, prompting the company to terminate the agreement earlier this month.

Sony is seeking undisclosed damages, including unpaid licensing costs and outstanding fees, and an order for Triller to stop infringing its copyright.

In statements issued to the media, Triller countered that the lawsuit “grossly mischaracterised” the nature of the contractual relationship between the two companies.

WIPR has contacted both parties for comment.

The case is Sony Music Entertainment v Triller, US Circuit Court for the South District of New York, no. 1: 22-cv-07380.

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