Following court rulings that Bang Energy stole music from Universal Music Group and Sony Music for ads on TikTok, Warner Music Group (WMG) is now getting in on the action – accusing the drink maker of using tracks by Cardi B, Dua Lipa, Jack Harlow, Lizzo and more without permission.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday (Sept. 15) in Florida federal court, WMG claims Bang Energy infringed the company’s copyrights on a “massive scale,” using nearly 200 different songs in promotional videos on TikTok and Instagram without proper licenses.
“Defendants have generated global brand awareness for Bang and billions of dollars in sales through the ubiquity and effectiveness of the infringing Bang Videos, many of which have received millions of views,” Warner wrote. “Defendants achieved that success through blatant, willful, and repeated copyright infringement of content owned by record labels and music publishers.”
The new case came on the heels of similar lawsuits filed by both Sony and UMG. In July, UMG won a ruling that Bang Energy had infringed its copyright; last week, Sony won the same kind of ruling. Taken together, the two decisions potentially put the drink company on the hook for many millions of dollars in damages.
Now filed by all three major music companies, the lawsuits against Bang Energy highlight an important distinction: The sweeping music licenses signed by platforms like TikTok and Instagram, which allow users to feature snippets of copyrighted music in their posts, do not apply to commercial content posted by brands. Companies must negotiate separate deals, or instead use generic royalty-free tracks.
In the earlier cases, Bang Energy argued it did not know it wasn’t allowed to use copyrighted music in its videos. Its lawyers cited the fact that TikTok and Instagram make it easy for users to pull any song into a video, and even claimed in Sony’s case that a TikTok rep told them they could do it.
“At the time Bang Energy posted videos on TikTok, no warning was provided that the songs TikTok provided could not be used in videos posted by businesses,” the company’s lawyers wrote earlier this summer in response to Sony’s lawsuit. “Bang Energy used TikTok as it was intended, posting videos utilizing the music that TikTok provided.”
But Judge William P. Dimitrouleas has rejected that argument in both of the earlier cases – essentially ruling both times that it didn’t matter what Bang Energy thought it was entitled to do.
In last week’s complaint – filed with the unusual benefit of multiple recent rulings in nearly-identical cases – Warner seemed intent on heading off that argument from the get-go.
“Defendants’ infringement was clearly willful,” Warner’s lawyers wrote. “Among other things, the social media platforms on which the infringing Bang Videos were posted expressly state that users have no right to infringe music, particularly in connection with commercial activities.”
“Even after receiving WMG’s cease-and-desist letter, Bang posted multiple new Bang Videos featuring the same Copyrighted Musical Works previously identified,” the complaint added.