About one month ago, Universal Music Group (UMG) secured a partial victory in its TikTok copyright infringement battle with Bang Energy Drink. Now, the Big Three label is seeking sanctions because the defendant company allegedly deleted TikTok videos containing protected music.
The courtroom confrontation (as well as a similar action from Sony Music, which is being represented by the same counsel as UMG) initiated last year. In brief, regarding the complaint’s background, Universal Music accused the energy-drink maker of using copyrighted songs in nearly 140 promotional videos on the music-driven TikTok.
At one early point in the dispute, Bang is said to have responded to UMG’s claims by stating: “Our understanding is that TikTok provides use of these songs, and others, with a license to all of its members.” However, while TikTok does have blanket license agreements in place with the major labels for user-generated content, the pacts don’t extend to brands.
UMG attempted to illustrate the point by quoting TikTok’s licensing terms and conditions when following up with Bang, but the plaintiff alleged that additional infringement had occurred even after the exchange.
Lastly, in terms of the case’s history, the initially mentioned victory arrived when the presiding judge determined that UMG was entitled to partial summary judgement against the Vital Pharmaceuticals subsidiary. This direct infringement ruling specifically covered videos that the company itself had uploaded to TikTok – not promotional clips that had been released by influencers.
As disclosed at the outset, Universal Music is now pushing for spoliation sanctions because of alleged video deletions on Bang’s end.
According to Law360, the previously noted attorney of UMG (and Sony Music Entertainment) communicated that he wouldn’t have known of the allegedly deleted videos if they hadn’t come to light through the SME complaint.
“The lack of candor is shocking,” UMG attorney James G. Sammataro said of the allegedly deleted clips. “It is the very worst of civil behavior. They hid, they concealed and tried to get away with it. Had there not been a sister case, they probably would’ve gotten away with it.”
Meanwhile, Bang’s legal team has pushed back against the claims and the sanctions request, maintaining that the major-label plaintiff is trying to secure a judgement on these videos without disclosing proof of ownership. Moreover, Bang attorney Shauna D. Manion highlighted 38 of the deleted videos’ viewership totals in a formal response to the demand for sanctions.
“For these 38 videos, the screenshot video analysis shows 16 videos have under 1,500 views, and only 2 videos have more than 100,000 views (one 150,200 views, and another 110,100 views),” the legal professional wrote.
Universal Music Group and Bang Energy are set to head to trial next Monday, and August has already delivered a number of interesting developments in other copyright infringement confrontations.
To be sure, the major labels and ISP Charter Communications have settled their high-profile lawsuit, while Drake’s producer has been removed from a “No Guidance” infringement action and Taylor Swift has provided sworn testimony after being accused of infringement in “Shake It Off.”