Triller Faces Trouble on Multiple Fronts for Refusing to Pay What It Owes

By Spencer Hulse Spencer Hulse has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on September 8, 2022

Triller is a video-sharing social media service that plays the role of a US-based TikTok rival. The company has seen some success over the years, including a recent $200 million funding round that should have been a happy occurrence. However, in a short amount of time, it has found itself under fire on multiple fronts over unpaid bills.

Perhaps the most explosive lawsuit was filed by Sony Music Entertainment (SME). The lawsuit came shortly after Triller announced its funding round on the 29th of August, putting a damper on the good news.

According to the lawsuit, Triller does not currently have a licensing agreement with Sony Music, which happens to be one of the largest record companies in the world. Despite that, the company continued using copyrighted sound recordings in its social media service. SME even characterized it as “willful and unauthorized” usage.

The lawsuit also claims that Triller has not paid and refuses to pay millions of dollars in owed contractual licensing fees. The refusal to pay comes in the face of an agreement between it and Sony Music that started in 2016.

The content distribution agreement between the companies authorized Triller and its users to reproduce, distribute, and create derivative works using Sony Music’s copyrighted content.

When everything started, Triller paid a licensing fee and more, but things quickly went downhill. According to Sony Music, the social media service consistently failed to make payments on time, and it only got worse this year.

In March, Triller supposedly stopped paying altogether, and the situation continued that way for months. Sony Music claimed that it requested payment of the millions owed during that time but did not receive a response. The lack of response led to a breach of contract and subsequent termination of the agreement in early August.

After the agreement was terminated, Triller no longer had the right to use Sony Music’s copyrighted content. But, according to SME, it continued to do so.

And Sony Music is not the only company to have trouble with Triller. It also faces a $28 million lawsuit from Timbaland and Swiss Beatz, who allege that the company failed to pay them after acquiring their battle rap show Verzuz.

Another company that has decided to take legal action against Triller is Phiture, a mobile growth consultancy and agency. The lawsuit claims that Triller started defaulting on an agreement put in place for Phiture’s services, accumulating a debt of $132,000 in unpaid fees.

Triller seems to have a long history of such acts. A year ago, it renewed a licensing agreement with Universal Music Group (UMG). However, prior to the renewal, UMG accused the company of withholding payments owed to artists.

At the time, Triller claimed not to need a deal since the relevant artists already had a connection as shareholders or partners, allowing direct authorization. That does not seem to have panned out since Triller renewed the agreement in the end, but it is unclear whether the current disputes will end the same.

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By Spencer Hulse Spencer Hulse has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Spencer Hulse is the Editorial Director at Grit Daily. He is responsible for overseeing other editors and writers, day-to-day operations, and covering breaking news.

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