Triller faces new lawsuit from Universal Music Publishing over allegedly unpaid licensing fees

Triller faces new lawsuit from Universal Music Publishing over allegedly unpaid licensing fees thumbnail

Social media app Triller is once again facing court over claims that they have not paid licensing fees to music publishers – this time to Universal Music.

Rolling Stone reports that Universal sued Triller last week (January 5), stating in its lawsuit that the company has “repeatedly failed to deliver on its promises”. “Despite its contractual obligations, Triller has failed to pay plaintiff the fifth, sixth, and sevenths quarterly installments of the licensing fees,” the suit alleges.

Under its current agreement with Universal Music Publishing, Triller is supposed to pay a $1million USD guarantee in quarterly instalments. Triller also agreed to pay nearly $3million USD in licensing fees, which covers past use of Universal-published songs prior to the agreement.

In addition, the app was contractually obliged to provide quarterly usage reports to Universal in order for the publisher to assign the correct royalties to each musician and songwriter.

According to the suit, however, Triller have not met their payment deadlines with Universal – nor have they provided any of their promised usage reports. This, the suit alleges, is in spite of “several written and oral promises” from Triller to provide both to the publisher.

“During the same period that Triller was defaulting on its payment and reporting obligations, it was reported that Triller was spending substantial amounts of money acquiring companies, including Julius and Fangage, and throwing lavish events catering to members of the media and entertainment industry,” the suit continues.

Triller has since responded to the Universal suit, providing a statement to Variety that described it as “nothing more than a minor contractual dispute” that “has no impact whatsoever on Triller or its business”.

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“It’s a plain vanilla case that virtually every social network has faced in one form or another,” the statement continued. “It’s not the first, and won’t be the last, but similar to the past disputes of these nature, they tend to settle quietly and end up being a lot to do about nothing.”

Universal originally pulled its entire music catalogue from Triller in February 2021. This, according to Universal, was done on the grounds that the app “shamefully withheld payments owed to our artists and refuses to negotiate a licence going forward”.

The Universal lawsuit follows on from a similar suit filed by Sony Music against Triller back in August, which alleged that the app stopped paying its licensing fees but kept using Sony music. The suit alleged that, since entering an agreement with Triller circa 2016, the app had “historically failed to make payments in a timely manner”.

Sony went on to note that Triller “displays brazen contempt for the intellectual property rights of Sony Music, its artists, and others”. In response, Triller shared a statement to Rolling Stone where they claimed that they were “confident that these issues can be resolved quickly”.

In August 2022, Triller was sued by Timbaland and Swizz Beatz over failed payments following their sale of the VERZUZ format. The claims that while the pair received payments as planned in January and April 2021, a payment that was due in January 2022 did not arrive.

A new payment plan was then reportedly agreed upon, but the money from that had still not come through at the time of the lawsuit. A settlement ultimately followed in September 2022 between the two parties for an undisclosed amount.

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