August 4, 2021
Sony Music sues Bang Energy for willfully using unlicensed songs in 200+ social media marketing videos, mainly on TikTok.
Sony is listed as a plaintiff along with Zomba, Arista Records, LaFace Records, and Volcano Entertainment, other record labels whose music catalog Sony currently owns and manages. Bang Energy’s CEO Jack Owoc is listed as a co-defendant.
Bang’s Social Media Videos
According to the complaint (full PDF at end of this article), Bang Energy has rapidly grown their energy drink business through “aggressive and conspicuous” marketing on TikTok, as well as an influencer ambassador program, Bang Energy Influencers. Influencers are to “create unique and remarkable content” as well as having an “Xtremely fit physique” and outgoing personality. Through Bang’s campaigns with influencer and user-generated content, the hashtag #bangenergy has received over 13.8 billion views and 7.6 billion video views on TikTok. These numbers don’t include influencers’ personal social media pages, where they are also required to post.
Music is the backbone in many of Bang’s TikToks. The example below features a Bang-branded hip-hop crew dancing in an aisle of Walmart showcasing Bang drink products, where the soundtrack (here, “original audio”) is essential to the video. The infringing videos, which will not be shared here for obvious legal reasons, make similar use of music— as a feature, not a background.
Over 206 of these wildly successful videos use Sony Music’s copyrighted music without permission. titles include “Gimme More” by Britney Spears, “Bad” by Michael Jackson, “Worth It” by Fifth Harmony, and “Say So” by Doja Cat. Sony alleges Bang also “exploits trending songs” to gain further popularity.
Sony Music communicated with Bang’s attorneys in April 2021 and discussed Bang’s “willful” infringement.
“The Bang Defendants are well aware that their conduct constitutes copyright infringement. Bang is a sophisticated entity. The Bang Defendants expend substantial resources to create and develop Bang’s intellectual property, including its social media content. “ — Sony MusicComplaint, page 18.
The Bottom Line
Bang needs a license to use these songs in their social media videos. Per TikTok’s Terms of Service, “NO RIGHTS ARE LICENSED WITH RESPECT TO SOUND RECORDINGS AND THE MUSICAL WORKS EMBODIED THEREIN THAT ARE MADE AVAILABLE FROM OR THROUGH THE SERVICE.”
Complaint (Full Document)
- Case No. 1:21-cv-22825: SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT; SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT US LATIN LLC; ZOMBA RECORDING LLC; ARISTA MUSIC; ARISTA RECORDS LLC; LAFACE RECORDS LLC; RECORDS LABEL, LLC; VOLCANO ENTERTAINMENT III LLC v. VITAL PHARMACEUTICALS, INC. d/b/a BANG ENERGY AND JACK OWOC
- Exhibit 1: Infringing videos and corresponding URLs