Sony Sues Creator of Viral TikTok Song Over Uncleared Sample: ‘Flagrant Infringement’
The label claims an artist named Trefuego "brazenly" used a segment from a 1986 instrumental song by Japanese composer Toshifumi Hinata without permission.
Sony Music Entertainment has quietly been battling for more than two years against the creator of a popular TikTok song over allegations that he prominently sampled a 1986 track by Japanese composer Toshifumi Hinata without “paying a cent.”
In a lawsuit first filed in December and refiled this week, Sony claims that Trefuego (real name Dantreal Daevon Clark-Rainbolt) made “flagrant” use of Hinata’s “Reflections” in his own song “90mh” — a track that’s allegedly been featured in 155,000 videos on TikTok and been streamed 100 million times on Spotify since it was released in 2019.
“In copying the ‘Reflections’ musical composition and sound recording, Trefuego brazenly sought to ride the coattails of Hinata’s creativity and popularity without regard to the United States copyright laws or the rights of Plaintiffs,” the label’s attorneys wrote.
Sony says it first took action back in January 2021, notifying Trefuego of the “infringing nature” of his song. After he allegedly refused to remove the song himself, the company filed takedown requests in August 2022 to get it pulled from TikTok, YouTube and Spotify. The company first sued Trefuego in December in Arizona federal court but refiled the case on Monday (March 20) in Texas federal court.
A manager for Trefuego did not immediately return a request for comment on Wednesday.
An instrumental featuring strings and piano, “Reflections” was released on a 1986 album but has made recent appearances in Netflix’s 2020 film Tigertail and in popular ambient music playlists on Spotify. Amid a “surge” in interest in such music on TikTok and other platforms, Sony says it’s been “highly selective” about allowing the song to be used, granting licenses “only for those projects that Hinata himself might endorse.”
But Trefuego “simply stole” the sample, Sony says.
“Trefuego took a very different approach,” the company claims. “He used and copied plaintiffs’ work without so much as asking, or paying a cent to plaintiffs, and he continued to exploit that music despite plaintiffs’ demand that he stop.”
In terms of the specific music borrowed, Sony claims that Trefuego sampled a 15-note melodic strings sequence accompanied by a looping chord progression played on the piano. That clip is looped throughout the entirety of “90mh,” Sony says.
“Trefuego’s infringement is blatant,” the company wrote. “[His] use of ‘Reflections’ permeates the entirety of the infringing works, and for many listeners, is the only reason they listen to them.”
An attorney for Sony did not immediately return a request for additional comment on the dispute with Trefuego.