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Wixen sues Triller for copyright infringement

By | Published on Thursday 19 November 2020


Music publisher Wixen has sued Triller over allegedly unlicensed songs that appear in the TikTok-rivalling video-sharing app. The publisher argues that rather than paying the songwriters whose works it controls, the Triller company prioritises mega-bucks deals with ‘social influencers’.

Although it’s been around for a few years, Triller has really gained momentum this year, in part by capitalising on the political woes of TikTok, especially in the US.

The app has licensing deals and partnerships with various music companies, including the majors, but is by no means completely covered, especially on the songs side. Which is something that the boss of the US National Music Publishers Association, David Israelite, noted earlier this year as Triller started to significantly expand its userbase and raise new investment.

And that’s something Wixen notes in its lawsuit. “Triller is well aware that it needs to negotiate licences with Wixen and other publishers”, it states. “The President and CEO of the National Music Publishers Association, a trade group to which Wixen belongs, criticised Triller for not fully licensing NMPA members’ songs, stating that ‘Triller’s popularity is largely based on music. It boasts ‘millions of songs at your fingertips’, however many of those songs have not been properly licensed'”.

The lawsuit then cites an interview with Triller CEO Mike Lu in which he acknowledged Israelite’s remarks and added “our lawyers spoke to him right after that article came out, and we hope to come to an agreement very soon – because we’ve already started working with some of the publishers [who are members of] NMPA. Our goal is to work with all of them”.

But not as yet, it should be noted, Wixen. “Triller could have reached out and negotiated with Wixen to obtain the necessary licences, as its CEO promised. Instead, it chose to brazenly disregard copyright law and commit willful and ongoing copyright infringement. Among the evidence of Triller’s willfulness is that it continued to use, copy, and exploit [our] works even after Wixen notified Triller that it had not obtained the proper licences for the use of the works”.

Later referencing the recent deals Triller has done to headhunt TikTok influencers, the publisher’s lawsuit goes on: “Triller’s CEO claims that ‘Triller puts artists and creators first, and our goal is to create an ecosystem where everyone can benefit’. However, rather than pay Wixen and the songwriters Wixen represents to use their works, Triller pays ‘social influencers’ substantial sums of money and provides them with Rolls Royces, mansions (with housekeeping), weekly sushi dinners at Nobu, and, in at least one instance, a helicopter”.

With all that in mind, Wixen is seeking statutory damages in relation to all the songs that it controls that appear on the Triller platform, which the publisher says is likely to be “well over a thousand”. Remember, under US law, a court can award a copyright owner $150,000 in statutory damages per infringed work. Which means the outcome of this will presumably be a licensing deal between Triller and Wixen rather than an actual court battle. But we’ll see.