Triller Faces Missing-Payment Lawsuit From Universal Music Group, Downplays Complaint As ‘Minor Contractual Dispute’

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Photo Credit: Triller

In August of 2022, Sony Music Entertainment (SME) sued Triller for allegedly failing to make millions in royalty payments. Now, Universal Music Group (UMG) has filed a missing-payment complaint of its own against the TikTok competitor.

Triller’s latest licensing dispute just recently entered the media spotlight, after the short-form video-sharing app last month formally responded to Sony Music’s aforesaid action. For background, Triller – which had been working towards a Q4 2022 IPO, according to execs – previously clashed with Universal Music in 2021.

UMG yanked its artists’ work from Triller in February of 2021 as part of the rights-related showdown, which ultimately concluded in May of the same year. Needless to say, however, the Big Three label’s catalog is once again absent from Triller, which is alleged to have failed to make payments and provide usage reports for some nine months, per Variety.

“During the same time 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 lawsuit reads, appearing extremely similar to Sony Music’s initially noted (ongoing) complaint.

“During the exact same months that Triller was failing to make licensing payments to Sony Music, it went on a purchasing spree,” SME wrote in its own suit, also including references to Julius and Fangage.

Back to the newer of the infringement actions, though, Triller had allegedly agreed to cough up approximately $3 million to UMG for licensing and the prior use of its catalog, on top of another $1 million or so for catalog usages within promotional content and third-party adverts.

Responding to the complaint in a widely circulated statement, Triller downplayed UMG’s action as “nothing more than a minor contractual dispute with a publisher, not the label.”

“This is a dispute about publishing for a very small percentage of the catalogue, and is the ordinary course of business for the music industry and over a small amount of money,” Triller proceeded in part. “This will be decided upon in a proper venue in a few years, and we clearly believe we are in the right and that a court will find in our favor. It’s a plain vanilla case that virtually every social network has faced in one form or another.”

Worth mentioning in conclusion is that Triller previously signaled its intent to assess “a ‘Spotify like model’, which would include a revenue share versus large cash payments.” And in answering Sony Music’s suit, as first highlighted, Triller acknowledged “that it has been unable to make payments…for a variety of reasons.” Separately, the TikTok rival in 2022 settled a missing-payment action spearheaded by Verzuz creators Timbaland and Swizz Beatz.