Bang Energy violated UMG music copyrights in TikTok ads, judge says


The TikTok logo is pictured outside the company’s US head office in Culver City, California, US, September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake

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  • Judge says UMG showed Bang’s TikTok videos misused songs
  • Questions remain on damages, liability for alleged influencer infringement

(Reuters) – A federal judge in Florida found Monday that energy drink maker Bang Energy infringed Universal Music Group’s copyrights by posting TikTok ads with music from some of the label’s most popular artists without permission.

Nearly 140 TikTok ads posted by Bang and its CEO Jack Owoc violated UMG’s rights in songs by musicians including Mariah Carey, Justin Bieber, Dua Lipa and Cardi B, US District Judge William Dimitrouleas said.

However, UMG had not yet proven that Bang Energy was liable for Bang ads posted by TikTok influencers that allegedly misused UMG’s music, according to the Fort Lauderdale-based judge.

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Bang Energy, UMG and their attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the ruling.

UMG sued Bang Energy last year, and said the company relied on an “aggressive and conspicuous” social-media campaign to become one of the largest energy-drink companies in the United States. Bang Energy’s TikTok account has over 1.5 million followers, and TikTok videos with the #BangEnergy hashtag have garnered nearly 18 billion views.

“The Bang Defendants brag loudly about the billions of views that their videos have received on TikTok, but have been silent since Plaintiffs demanded an explanation for the unauthorized use of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted musical works,” the lawsuit said.

Sony Music has also sued Bang Energy in a similar case that is still in progress.

Bang Energy told the court that UMG’s case was “replete with fatal evidentiary flaws,” and that it reasonably believed it had a license from TikTok, which it said paid the labels to use the songs.

Dimitrouleas said Monday that UMG had proven that Bang’s ads infringed. UMG showed that it owned the copyrighted songs and that Bang’s videos used them without permission.

Bang’s argument that it thought it had a license is relevant to how much it owes in damages, and not whether it infringed, Dimitrouleas said.

The case is UMG Recordings Inc v. Vital Pharmaceuticals Inc d/b/a Bang Energy, US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, No. 21-cv-60914.

For UMG: James Sammataro of Pryor Cashman

For Bang Energy: Joseph Kohn of Quarles & Brady

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Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Blake Brittain

Thomson Reuters

Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com

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