Sony Music Sues Producers of Whitney Houston Biopic Over Failure To Pay For Music

Sony Music Entertainment is suing the producers of the 2022 Whitney Houston biopic, Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody. Sony Music is alleging that although they signed a sync licensing deal, the companies  failed to pay for the use of 20-plus of Houston’s songs that appear in the film. As a result, Sony calls the use of the songs in the film “willful and deliberate infringement” of its copyrights.

In the suit, filed on Thursday, Sony Music claimed that the biopic’s producers, Anthem Films, Nybo Productions, and Black Label Media, entered a licensing agreement with the record company on December 5, 2022 and that payments for the use of the catalog were expected by July of 2023.

Those payments never came, the company said, and Sony sent the producers multiple notices of failure to make the payments in August and October of 2023. Per the suit, after receiving the initial letter, Anthem told Sony they could pay for the music once they received a tax credit from the state of Massachusetts (where Anthem is headquartered), though based on this week’s suit, that evidently didn’t happen.

“As a result of Anthem’s failures, Defendants’ use of the SME Recordings in the Film has been unauthorized, and Defendants have had no legal right to use the SME Recordings,” Sony said in the complaint. “Despite being given notice of their infringing conduct, Defendants have continued to distribute and otherwise exploit the SME Recordings in connection with the Film without authorization.

Black Label asserts in a statement to Billboard that the company was “one of many investors in this film, should not have been named in the lawsuit, and looks forward to being dismissed from it promptly.” Representatives for the other companies have not responded to media requests for comment.