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TikTok Rapper Ordered To Pay Sony Music $800K For Not Clearing Sample

Trefuego was sued for using a “blatant” sample from a Japanese instrumental song that was released in 1986.

A TikTok rapper who was sued in 2021 by Sony Music was ordered to pay the music giant more than $800,000 in damages for copyright infringement after using one of its songs in a track he released.

According to Billboard, Dantreal Daevon Clark-Rainbolt, who goes by the moniker Trefuego, was sued by Sony Music for using a “blatant” sample from “Reflections,” a Japanese instrumental song released in 1986. The artist used an illegal sample in his song “90mh.” A federal judge on March 27 ordered that the rapper pay $802,997.23 for using the sample without getting clearance from the label.

“The court hopes this case will serve as a $802,997.23 lesson for defendant in carefully selecting the materials included in his raps,” U.S. District Judge Mark T. Pittman stated in announcing his decision.

Pittman said the $802,997 would cover the approximate $700,000 Trefuego earned from Spotify and other platforms, and the approximately $100,000 paid to Sony Music in licensing fees. Also included with that judgment, he ordered the rapper to pay ongoing royalties, including half of the publishing revenue and a 20% cut of recording revenue, and repaying $2,230 in legal costs incurred by the music company.

Sony went after Trefuego in January 2021, notifying him that his song “90mh” used the uncleared sample of “Reflections,” which was released by Japanese composer Toshifumi Hinata. The company filed takedown requests in August 2022 to get the record removed and finally launched the lawsuit in December.

Music Business Worldwide reported that the song went viral on social media platforms TikTok and YouTube and totaled over 170 million streams on Spotify. The media outlet pointed out that Trefuego’s “90mh” sampled and looped Hinata’s song for the track.

The judge permitted Sony to contact Trefuego through his social media accounts since he didn’t respond to Sony’s prior attempts to get a response from the rapper. In his decision, Judge Pittman wrote, “In this case, Sony pursued a reasonable, non-frivolous claim to vindicate infringement of its copyrighted work and that “some may query the wisdom of pursuing a claim against a relatively small fish like Trefuego, but that fact does not render Sony’s motivation improper or their lawsuit unreasonable.”

“In fact, the only unreasonable behavior in this case was Defendant’s, as his consistent attempts to evade service and eschew meaningful communications stymied case progress and drove up Sony’s costs.”

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