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Beasties win copyright infringement suit against Monster energy drinks

Monster to pay out $1.7 million for infringement and false endorsement

Photo: Michael Morel 2007

In hip-hop, where sampling material and mixes comprised of multiple songs are common, copyright and licensing issues have a way of cropping up. The issue is as old as Rick James suiting MC Hammer for snagging the “Super Freak” hook for “U Can’t Touch This,” and comes full circle with Rick Ross filing suit against LMFAO in January for liberal use of a clip from “Hustlin’” in “Party Rock Anthem” (granted, calling LMFAO hip-hop may be a bit of a stretch.)

Even hip-hop royalty like The Beastie Boys are not immune to spats over copyright issues, and on June 5 Reuters reported that the group won $1.7 million in a lawsuit it filed against Monster Beverage Inc. in 2012.

Following the untimely death of Adam “MCA” Yauch in 2012, Monster released a short video containing many popular Beastie’s songs as spun by DJ Z-Trip during the “Ruckus in the Rockies” music festival, which was Monster sponsored. The video was accompanied by a Beastie Boys medley made available for download via the Monster website.

As the Boys have been historically opposed to the use of their music in commercials, with Yauch's will explicitly requesting that no company be allowed to use the group's music for advertisements, they quickly filed suit.

The group initially requested $2.5 million for infringement and false endorsement, but final amount was bumped down. Regardless the two surviving members, Michael "Mike D" Diamond and Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz, who had been present for most of the court proceedings, seemed pleased with the decision.  While they did not release a statement, Horovitz thanked the jury, and said, “we’re happy,” Reuters reports.

Recently, the group said that it will not make new music without MCA, Diamond was quoted as saying, “We can't make new music ... [and] we do not let our music get used in commercials for commercial products.”

Z-Trip was cleared of any wrong doing earlier this year, with a court finding that his comment that the video was “dope” was not enough to warrant clearance of its use for advertorial purposes.

It seems like, regardless how catchy a clip or hook is, it’s best to exercise restraint when using creative works borrowed from other artists in new music or advertisements. Similar restraint was essential in keeping this article from being headlined “you’ve got to fight for your (copy)right to party.”


For more on copyright issues, check out these stories:

EU compares ‘right to be forgotten’ to copyright enforcement

DOJ to review ‘competitive concerns’ with music-fee licensing system

Is copyright infringement a Stairway to Hell?

Executive Editor

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Chris DiMarco

Chris DiMarco, Executive Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, has a background in multimedia production with previous involvement in projects in which he developed and created content...

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