Marriott Faces Sony Music Lawsuit Over Alleged ‘Rampant Infringement’ in Social Media Videos

sony music marriott lawsuit
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The Warsaw Marriott Hotel. Photo Credit: Michal Mrozek

Sony Music Entertainment (SME) is suing Marriott International for copyright infringement over the alleged unauthorized use of protected music in social media promo videos.

The major label and several of its subsidiaries recently submitted the complaint against Bethesda-headquartered Marriott to a Delaware federal court. Spanning north of 50 pages, the suit promptly dives into the relevant social media clips uploaded by the “behemoth of the hospitality industry.”

As described by the plaintiffs, Marriott also “operates a social media empire” across its owned accounts, the accounts of the hotels it manages, influencer partnerships, and, owing to control over posted content, the profiles of its franchised hotels.

In keeping with that purported empire, Sony Music maintains that a number of Marriott promotional videos – to the tune of 931 identified instances of alleged stateside infringement – have utilized recordings without authorization. That includes works from the likes of Beyoncé, Harry Styles, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, and Miley Cyrus.

Services such as TikTok and Instagram (which are among the platforms where the alleged infringement occurred) have licensing deals in place covering the non-commercial use of music on the part of individuals. Also available are commercial music libraries from which brands can safely add songs to their own content.

However, these pre-cleared commercial libraries lack prominent releases attributable to especially well-known acts, songs from which must be licensed separately. While not an existential threat to Marriott (NASDAQ: MAR), the market cap of which exceeds $67 billion, the requirement has proven extremely costly for different companies in similar major-label actions.

Running with that point, history and evidence suggest that Universal Music and Warner Music could potentially join SME in suing Marriott. All three majors ended up taking legal action against Bang Energy (which now belongs to Monster), and per SME’s Marriott complaint, the hospitality company has further infringed on “many sound recordings owned and controlled by numerous other record labels” as well as an abundance of compositions.

Staying focused on SME’s suit for the time being, though, the major label is said to have reached out to Marriott on multiple occasions about the alleged “rampant infringement.

Those warnings date back to mid-January of 2020, according to the action, with related communications having ostensibly occurred in November of the same year and then March of 2021, 2022, and 2024.

An initial tolling agreement was finalized (presumably in the final nine months of 2022 or the opening three months of 2023), but Marriott sometime thereafter allegedly refused to “enter into reasonable extensions or new tolling agreements,” on top of allegedly opting against requests “to timely identify which hotels Sony Music identified were managed or franchised, necessitating this lawsuit.”

“At least forty-seven of the infringements Sony Music has identified were posted in the month of May alone,” the suit reads, “and dozens of those videos were posted to Instagram Stories. … Marriott and its managed and franchised hotels are making a concerted effort to avoid detection by posting infringing content to Instagram Stories, which are only available for twenty-four hours.”

All told, Sony Music is suing Marriott (which didn’t respond to a request for comment in time for publishing) for direct, vicarious, and contributory infringement alike. This past October, SME levied a complaint, centering on the same type of alleged “blatant, willful, and repeated” infringement, against OFRA Cosmetics.