Beastie Boys copyright infringement suit against Monster to proceed

The Beastie Boys claim Monster used their copyrighted works in promotional materials without permission

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

You gotta fight… for your right… to liiiiiiiiitigate!

The Beastie Boys aren’t only “Licensed to Ill;” they’re also licensed to uphold their intellectual property rights in regards to their music in district court. While that may not sound as catchy, it certainly packs a punch, especially if you’re Monster Energy Company on the wrong end of the band’s wrath.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York allowed a suit to proceed on Nov. 4 in which the rap group sued Monster for unauthorized use of Beastie Boys songs in promotional tools. The court also threw out a third party complaint from Monster, which had tried to argue that they legally purchased the sample-containing remix from an authorized DJ.

The original infringement comes from 2012, when Monster sponsored a snowboarding competition called “Ruckus in the Rockies.” At the competition, a DJ named Z-Trip performed a remix that contained portions of four Beastie Boys songs, which he had been authorized by the band itself to create.

But then, Monster decided to Sabotage the band’s IP rights and used the remix prominently in promotional videos. The Beastie Boys argued that Monster never contacted them about use of their songs — a fact that Monster did not dispute — and that they should receive royalties from use of the songs. Monster, meanwhile, filed a complaint that since Z-Trip had gained permission to use the songs, and Monster had gained permission from Z-Trip, then the Beastie Boys’ suit should be thrown out.

Z-Trip moved for summary judgment, and the court threw out Monster’s complaint. In its filing, the court writes “[I]f Monster is liable to the Beastie Boys, it may not shift legal responsibility of such lapses to Z-Trip. Any such liability on Monster’s part would arise instead because Monster left these matters in the hands of an employee insensitive to the legal issues presented by making derivative use of, and commercially exploiting, the Beastie Boys’ original work.”

The band is seeking $150,000 in damages from Monster. And as for the DJ caught in the middle, the court says, “In musical terms, Z-Trip can now, therefore, rest at least ‘as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce,’ because Monster’s Third-Party Complaint against him has ‘got the rhyme and reason but no cause.’”


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Assistant Editor

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Zach Warren

Zach Warren is Assistant Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he oversees online content submissions and administers InsideCounsel's enewsletters. Zach specializes in new media and multimedia...

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