Sony Music Entertainment is suing Triller for breach of contract, claiming the video-sharing social networking app has failed to make payments for months and after being served a termination notice has also failed to pull the company’s catalog of music from the platform.
According to Sony’s lawsuit filed Monday (Aug. 29) in New York, Triller has “historically failed to make payments in a timely manner” but those “failures” escalated in March 2022 when the company “failed to make any monthly payments required under the Agreement, totaling millions of dollars.” Since then, Triller has allegedly continued to fail to pay its outstanding fees, despite Sony’s requests (“and near-total radio silence in response,” the suit states). On July 22, Sony notified Triller that it was in material breach of their agreement and Aug. 8 the music company terminated the deal.
Still, without a licensing agreement in place, as the lawsuit states, “Triller has continued to reproduce, distribute, publicly perform, display, create derivative works, and otherwise exploit the valuable Sony Music Content in connection with the Triller App.” As a result, Sony is also suing Triller for copyright infringement, seeking damages and an injunction to stop Triller’s continued use of the label’s recordings.
In a statement to Billboard on Tuesday (Aug. 30), a spokesman for Triller said the company had not yet been served with Sony’s lawsuit, but said that it “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,” said Triller representative Michael Padovano. “The process of removing a music catalogue is not immediate. Triller began the process in July and as of today all identified Sony music has been removed from Triller.”
Sony — the second largest record label, based on U.S. marketshare, with acts including Beyoncé, Harry Styles, Lil Nas X and Doja Cat — first signed a licensing deal with Triller in 2016. Since then, the companies have since amended the deal several times leading up to their most recent agreement, referred to as “the Eleventh Amendment” in the lawsuit, which was signed in December 2021 and had an effective date as of Dec. 1, 2020. Under the Eleventh Amendment, Triller was obligated to pay Sony an initial payment due at execution followed by payments due on the first day of each month from March 1 through Nov. 1. None of those monthly payments have been made, Sony claims, and neither has any interest on overdue fees.
Sony isn’t the only one who’s had a hard time receiving payments from Triller this year. Earlier this month, Timbaland and Swizz Beatz sued the company for $28 million they said they were due for the 2021 sale of their popular Verzuz livestream series. Similar to Sony, Timbaland and Swizz Beatz received payments in 2021 but claimed they struggled to get their 2022 installments. A payment due in January was not received, but then was worked out for February. But then another $18 million that was due in March was never made, Timbaland and Swizz Beatz’s lawsuit claims, as well as the $1 million more per month for another 10 months they were promised after that. Triller has responded to the lawsuit, stating that the company believed the Timbaland and Swizz Beatz had not yet met certain required thresholds for additional payments and that it hoped the lawsuit was “nothing more than a misunderstanding driven by lawyers.”
But while Triller was allegedly failing to make these licensing payments, the company was writing other checks. As the lawsuit points out, on March 28 Triller announced its purchase of influencer marketing software platform Julius and on April 25 its purchase of direct to consumer sales platform Fangage.
These new lawsuits come as Triller prepares for a public listing later this year. The company announced on Monday it had completed “substantial pre-public financing in the form of debt and equity” after filing its S-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company’s press release did not state the amount of financing, but noted Taiwan-based financial investment holding company Fubon Financial affiliate Total Formation Co. as a participant. Falcon Capital and Clearvue Partners are also participants, according to the release.
As well, Triller announced it had completed the acquisition of Bare Knuckle Fight Championship (BKFC), a a deal first announced earlier this year.
In February 2021, Universal Music Group pulled its catalog from Triller. A UMG spokesperson said at the time that Triller had “shamefully” withheld payments owed to our artists and refuses to negotiate a license going forward.” The two companies came to an agreement three months later, and UMG returned its catalog to the service.
Read the entire lawsuit here:
UPDATE: This story was updated on Aug. 30 at 2:55 p.m. EST to include a statement from Triller’s spokesperson.