20 November 2020CopyrightRory O'Neill

Triller choosing to pay influencers over artists, suit claims

Music publisher Wixen has sued the owners of video-sharing app and TikTok rival Triller for $50m, claiming the app is using over a thousand songs without permission.

Like TikTok, Triller allows users to create and share videos overlaid with songs in its library. And, like TikTok, the social media company has been accused of misusing artists’ work without securing a licence or paying royalties.

In the complaint, filed at the US District Court for the Central District of California, Wixen said “Triller is well aware that it needs to negotiate licences with Wixen and other publishers”.

According to Wixen, Triller is prioritising influencers who promote the app over the artists’ whose work it uses.

“Rather than pay Wixen and the songwriters Wixen represents to use their works, Triller pays ‘social influencers’ substantial sums of money and provides them with Rolls Royces, mansions (with housekeeping), weekly sushi dinners at Nobu, and, in at least one instance, a helicopter,” the complaint said.

The suit also quoted National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) CEO David Israelite, who has criticised Triller for allowing users to access copyright-protected music without a licence.

“The pattern of tech platforms asking for forgiveness instead of permission to use songwriters’ work must stop. Triller must legitimise its business by properly licensing all music on its platform,” Israelite said.

Wixen, an NMPA member, noted that, in August, Triller CEO Mike Lu had responded to Israelite’s comments, remarking: “Our lawyers spoke to him right after that article came out, and we hope to come to an agreement very soon.”

But Wixen says no such discussions have been forthcoming: “Triller could have reached out and negotiated with Wixen to obtain the necessary licenses, as its CEO promised. Instead, it chose to brazenly disregard copyright law and commit willful and ongoing copyright infringement.”

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