UPDATED: Sony Music Entertainment filed a lawsuit against Triller, seeking millions of dollars in damages after the video-sharing app allegedly stopped paying licensing fees in March 2022. According to the suit, filed Monday in New York federal court, Triller continued to allow Sony Music songs to be shared on the app even after the music company terminated their deal.
“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 Music said in the lawsuit.
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Triller, in a statement provided to Variety on Aug. 31, said, “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.”
Triller added, “The process of removing a music catalog is not immediate. Triller began the process in July and as of today all identified Sony music has been removed from Triller.”
Sony Music’s lawsuit comes after Triller was sued earlier this month by Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, who alleged Triller owes them $28 million in payments from the app company’s acquisition of Verzuz, their livestreaming rap-battle show.
Triller first entered into a content distribution agreement with Sony Music in September 2016.
“While Triller had historically failed to make payments in a timely manner under the Agreement, its failures recently escalated,” Sony Music alleged in the lawsuit. Starting in March 2022, Triller failed to make any monthly payments required under the deal. After months of Sony Music requesting that Triller pay its outstanding and overdue fees, “and near-total radio silence in response,” the music company notified Triller on July 22 that it was in material breach of the agreement.
After Triller “failed to substantively respond, much less cure” its violation of the deal, Sony Music terminated the agreement on Aug. 8. “In doing so, Sony Music expressly informed Triller that its continued use of Sony Music Content would constitute willful copyright infringement,” according to the lawsuit.
After the Aug. 8 termination of the agreement, Sony Music’s content continues to be available in Triller’s audio library and used in user videos, according to the suit. “The full scope of Triller’s infringement is unknown,” Sony Music said in the complaint.
Sony Music didn’t specify the dollar figure it’s seeking from Triller in the lawsuit but it asks for compensatory and statutory damages, as well as an order forcing Triller to stop infringing Sony Music’s copyrights and “a declaration that Triller willfully infringed Sony Music’s copyrighted sound recordings.”
It’s not Triller’s first dispute with one of the major music companies. In early 2021, Universal Music Group pulled its music catalog from Triller, alleging the app maker wasn’t paying artists for the use of their music. In May 2021, the companies reached new worldwide licensing deals covering publishing and recorded music.
On Monday, L.A.-based Triller said it had completed a “substantial pre-public financing in the form of debt and equity” — ahead of a planned IPO in early Q4 under the ticker symbol “ILLR” on Nasdaq — from investors including Total Formation Co., an affiliate of Taiwan-based Fubon Financial, Falcon Capital and Clearvue Partners. The company didn’t say how much money it raised.
Triller had previously announced plans to become a publicly traded company called “TillerVerz Corp.” through a reverse merger with SeaChange International, a vendor of video-streaming and ad technologies. In June 2022, SeaChange and Triller mutually agreed to terminate the merger agreement, per a regulatory filing.
Sony Music sued Triller in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The case docket number is 1:22-cv-07380.
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