Sony Music Sues Triller Over Licensing Fees

·3 min read

On the heels of an announcement that Triller has raised more than $300 million in funding since its 2019 launch and recently finished the acquisition of Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship, Sony Music has filed a big-ticket copyright infringement and breach of contract lawsuit alleging it’s not being paid for the use of its artists songs on the app.

Sony Music alleges that Triller entered into a content distribution agreement back in 2016, and signed an amended version as recently as December 2021, but stopped paying license fees due under the deal.

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“Triller is a sophisticated party that purports to take intellectual property rights seriously when it benefits Triller,” writes attorney Matthew Oppenheim in the complaint, which is embedded below. “Despite extolling the importance and value of ‘innovative technology and intellectual property,’ and claiming to hope that its efforts to curb copyright infringement ‘will set a precedent for us and all content creators going forward that stealing is not going to be tolerated,’ Triller displays brazen contempt for the intellectual property rights of Sony Music, its artists, and others.”

Sony alleges Triller “had historically failed to make payments in a timely manner” but that recently the issue has “escalated.”

“Starting in March 2022, Triller failed to make any monthly payments required under the Agreement, totaling millions of dollars. Failure to pay the licensing fee is a breach of the Agreement,” writes Oppenheim. “After months of Sony Music requesting that Triller pay its outstanding and overdue fees, and near-total radio silence in response, Sony Music notified Triller on July 22, 2022 that it was in material breach of the Agreement. After Triller failed to substantively respond, much less cure, its breach of the Agreement by making payment, Sony Music terminated the Agreement on August 8, 2022.”

With no deal in place, Sony alleges, Triller lost the right to use its music but continued to offer it in the app.

Triller on Tuesday sent The Hollywood Reporter this statement in response to the complaint: “We have yet to be served, but from what we’ve seen, this lawsuit from Sony Music grossly mischaracterizes our relationship with them and leans into the bully persona large music labels are often criticized for. We are focused on furthering the creator economy, and we will continue to seek a contract that achieves that goal. If necessary, we will defend our case in court.”

The company also says “the process of removing a music catalogue is not immediate” and, as of today, “all identified Sony music has been removed from Triller.”

Meanwhile, Sony criticizes Triller for trumpeting its explosive growth and acquisitions of platforms including Julius and Fangage while leaving millions unpaid. “During the exact same months that Triller was failing to make licensing payments to Sony Music, it went on a purchasing spree,” states the complaint. “In the press releases announcing these acquisitions, Triller touted its app as an ‘open garden technology platform for creators,’ and highlighted the benefits the acquisitions would have for creators on Triller. All the while, Triller neglected its payment obligations under the Agreement, preventing Sony Music from compensating its creators — the world-class performers and artists who created the sound recordings Triller incorporated into its users’ videos — for Triller’s use of their music.”

This marks the latest in a string of financial complaints filed against the aspiring TikTok rival, coming two weeks after Timbaland and Swizz Beatz sued claiming they’re owed tens of millions from a deal for Verzuz. Triller maintains that the producers have already received more than $50 million in cash and stock and the funds at issue are earn-out payments that they haven’t yet met the thresholds for.

Triller is aiming to go public in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to a Monday announcement. It recently filed a confidential S1 with the SEC indicating its ticker will be “ILLR.”

 

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