Sony Music Takes on Triller in Copyright and Contract Action

On Monday, Sony Music Entertainment and its corporate relatives including Zomba Recording LLC and Arista Records LLC, took on Triller Inc. over allegations that it stopped payments in violation of the parties’ licensing contract, thereby committing copyright infringement and breaching their agreement.

According to the Southern District of New York lawsuit, Triller, a video-sharing social networking service, allows users to search for and choose a sound recording from its audio library of more than 350 million to use in “‘celebrity-quality music video[s] starring you and your friends.’” Videos are then postable to the Triller app, where other users can stream or download them.

Sony Music claims that Triller’s entire product is built upon popular music, including its copyrighted sound recordings like Janis Joplin’s “Summertime” and Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky,” as well as contemporary hits such as Doja Cat’s “Say So” and Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.” The action aligns with Sony Music’s goals of protecting its copyrighted library not only on behalf of artists cheated from money rightfully owed to them, but also the “public at large by reducing the incentive to invest in the creation and dissemination of new music,” the complaint says.

The suit explains that in 2016, Triller and Sony entered into a licensing agreement. Beginning in March 2022, however, Sony claims that Triller failed to make monthly payments, totaling millions of dollars. This was so, Sony Music points out, despite the company’s growth, including its 2022 acquisitions of Julius, an influencer marketing software platform, and Fangage, a platform for creators to host and sell content to their fans. 

Sony Music made multiple attempts to reconcile the breach with Triller, but to no avail, forcing it to terminate the contract on Aug. 8, 2022, ending Triller’s legal rights to Sony-licensed music, per the complaint. The plaintiff asks for judicial intervention to end Triller’s “massive, willful, and deliberate campaign of infringement” and for damages. 

Oppenheim + Zebrak LLP represents Sony Music in the suit.