Relations between the music and fitness sectors have never been cosier — but trouble is brewing between one of the major music companies and one of world’s the fastest-rising fitness brands.
Sony Music Entertainment has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against UK-born fitness apparel brand Gymshark. The fitness firm, founded by former Domino’s Pizza employee, Ben Francis in 2012, was valued at approximately $1.3bn in August last year after selling a 21% stake to US-based General Atlantic. Gymshark is currently expanding into the US.In a legal document filed in California on Thursday (July 15), Sony Music claims that Gymshark “has achieved its success by infringing sound recordings and musical compositions belonging to a number of different content owners”, including SME’s, “on a massive scale”.
According to the filing, Gymshark has “largely eschewed traditional advertising” and has instead promoted its products in videos posted to the likes of Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook. These videos, claims the lawsuit, “feature popular sound recordings as an integral part of the presentation”. Sony Music states that while these videos on Instagram, TikTok etc “have been instrumental to Gymshark’s success”, the company “has not paid for the privilege to use the sound recordings that are featured in them”. The lawsuit claims further that Gymshark has “misappropriated hundreds of the most popular and valuable sound recordings in the market”. Some of the artists whose tracks have allegedly been used without permission in Gymshark’s svideos include Beyoncé, Britney Spears, The Chainsmokers, Justin Timberlake, A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott, Harry Styles, Usher, Noah Cyrus, and Calvin Harris.
To top it all off Sony Music claims that late last year, Gymshark’s Head of PR & Brand Partnerships Steph O’Neill approached the major music company to try and obtain a license to use a snippet of The Flute Song (by an artist called Russ) in a video featuring Gymshark athlete Ryan Garcia. No license was obtained, but the track was still used, the lawsuit claims. Sony Music is demanding a trial by jury and seeks statutory damages of up to the maximum amount of $150,000 per infringed recording. Attached to the lawsuit is Exhibit A, a document that details what Sony Music calls an “initial list of sound recordings” for which it alleges the “rights have been infringed by Gymshark through the inclusion of such sound recordings in Gymshark Videos”.
There are 297 recordings on the list, which means that, at $150,000 each, maximum total damages sought could exceed $44m + legal costs.