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Triller responds to Sony Music lawsuit

By | Published on Friday 9 December 2022


TikTok rival Triller this week formally responded to Sony Music’s lawsuit against it, conceding that it hasn’t made payments that were required under its most recent deal with the major, but denying most of the music firm’s other allegations.

Sony sued Triller back in August claiming that the video sharing app hadn’t made any payments due under its licensing deal since March this year.

As a result, that licensing deal had been terminated. And yet, the major claimed, some Sony controlled recordings remained available in Triller’s audio library and continued to be streamed within videos uploaded to the app. Therefore, Sony’s lawsuit alleged, Triller is liable for copyright infringement as well as breach of contract.

In its response, Triller confirms that it had a licensing deal with Sony and that payments due under that deal from March onwards were not made. However, it takes issue with most of the major’s other claims, and especially the allegations that it continues to exploit Sony recordings and is therefore liable for copyright infringement.

Among the claims made in Sony’s lawsuit that are outright denied by Triller is the statement that: “Sony Music has adequately and substantially performed all of its obligations under the agreement”.

And that “since at least 8 Aug, Triller has infringed Sony Music’s copyrighted works by performing them publicly by way of digital transmission without authorisation; by copying, distributing, and creating derivative works of Sony Music sound recording without authorisation for incorporation into videos; and by distributing Sony Music’s copyrighted sound recordings without authorisation as part of a video”.

Elsewhere it also denies claims by Sony that music – including music from the major – plays a key role in the Triller experience and therefore the Triller business.

“Triller’s revenue-generation methods are dependent upon the availability of Sony Music content, the creation of high-quality user-generated videos generated from Sony Music content, and other users watching and engaging with those videos containing Sony Music content”, the major said in its original legal filing.

“More and better videos generate more engagement”, Sony added, “keeping users on the Triller app for longer periods of time such that Triller can serve that user more ads”. Triller’s response? Denied!

It’s not surprising that Triller would be keen to play down the importance of Sony’s music in the context of this lawsuit, but the video sharing app has been key to play down the importance of commercially-released music more generally of late.

That followed the news that it’s deal with indie label repping Merlin had also lapsed and that other music was being removed from the Triller audio library. That’s because – Triller said last weekend – it’s data suggests that many creators on its platform would rather create their own soundtracks or use audio uploaded by other Triller creators via the platform’s ‘OG sounds’ function.

“We can confirm we assessed the app usage and a very small percentage of our users use the major label music as most of our users enjoy to make their own content with OG sounds and to upload on their own”, Triller reckoned.

It remains to be seen how the legal battle with Sony progresses, and also how the firm’s wider relationships with the music industry evolve in the months ahead.