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Sony Music sues Triller claiming copyright infringement, alleging it is owed millions

Doja Cat
Doja Cat performs in Las Vegas last year. Sony Music has sued Triller for alleged copyright infringement, saying the TikTok rival refused to pay millions for licensing songs such as Doja Cat’s “Say So.”
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
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Sony Music has sued Triller Inc. for alleged copyright infringement, saying the TikTok rival refused to pay millions for licensing songs like Doja Cat’s “Say So” and Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.”

New York-based Sony has had a licensing deal with Triller since 2016, but since renewing a contract in December 2020, Triller hasn’t paid up in recent months, Sony said in its complaint.

Triller, which operates a music video app and is based in Century City, owes millions of dollars, including interest, Sony said in its lawsuit filed in New York federal court Monday.

Universal Music Group said it removed music by Drake, Pop Smoke and others from the streaming app Triller after the company stopped paying UMG artists.

Feb. 5, 2021

In a statement, Triller said that the Sony catalog has been removed from the app and that it has sought to take down any songs uploaded by users within 24 hours.

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“The case is about less than 100 songs and whether or not we complied with ... take-down requests on users uploading those songs, which we believe we have,” Triller said.

The litigation is the latest of Triller’s legal woes. The app operators have had disputes with other music owners and claims of nonpayment by other parties.

Last year, Universal Music Group pulled its music from Triller after it failed to agree to terms for use of its content.

“Triller has shamefully withheld payments owed to our artists and refuses to negotiate a license going forward,” Universal said in February 2021. Triller said its agreement with UMG expired a week prior and that it had not withheld payments from artists.

And last month, the co-creators of the music platform Verzuz sued Triller in Los Angeles claiming breach of contract, alleging they were owed $28 million. Swizz Beatz (a.k.a. Kasseem Daoud Dean) and Timbaland (a.k.a. Timothy Z. Mosley) sold Verzuz to Triller last year and said in their complaint that Triller defaulted on payments.

Triller disputed the claim, saying it had paid more than $50 million in cash and stock, and that the fallout was over another agreement that Verzuz had not yet met, the company told TMZ.

There have been other reports of alleged nonpayment by Triller to creators.

Earlier this year, some Black creators on Triller said they hadn’t been paid for the content they posted on the app, the Washington Post reported. Triller disputed the report, saying it had met the financial commitments.

Last fall Triller announced plans to award one-year contracts to 300 leading Black social media creators, promising earnings of $4,000 a month in fees and company stock. The company said its program was worth $14 million.

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