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Beastie Boys win $1.7 million in Monster dispute

By | Published on Friday 6 June 2014

Beastie Boys

Take note kids, fight for your right to party without intrusion from the malevolent marketing men, and you might wind up with $1.7 million in your bank account. I think it’s something for us all to aspire to.

Yes, the Beastie Boys have prevailed in their legal battle with the Monster Energy drinks firm, and while the $1.7 million in damages rewarded by the jury hearing the dispute isn’t quite as much as the rap outfit had requested, its way more than the $125,000 the drinks maker argued was a fair settlement figure.

As previously reported, Monster used a montage of Beastie Boys tracks in a promotional video relating to a snowboarding event the brand sponsored, which was posted shortly after the passing of Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, who had included a line in his will about his oeuvre never being licensed for use in advertising or marketing materials.

Monster conceded that it had used the music without permission, but said that it had done so by mistake, after one of its marketeers mistakenly inferred from Z-Trip, the DJ the company had worked with on the party in the promotional video, that the music had been cleared.

Given it had infringed by mistake, and it had removed the video as soon as the Beastie Boys made a complaint, and the promo hadn’t been so widely seen by that point, the drinks company argued that the $2 million in damages sought by the surviving members of the rap group was way too high.

The rappers split their damages request into two. Half was for the copyright infringing, based on the principle in US copyright law that damages should be paid separately for each infringement, ie each track used. The other half was for implied endorsement, mainly stemming from a closing shot in the video paying tribute to the then recently deceased Yauch with the line RIP MCA in lettering similar to the drink company’s logo.

And in the main the jury sided with the rappers, rewarding the group $1.7 million for Monster’s infringements and unpermitted implied endorsing. Needless to say, the drinks company has already announced its intent to appeal.

A legal rep for the company told Rolling Stone: “Although Monster Energy has great respect for the verdict of the jury, we strongly disagree with it. We will make an application to the court to set aside the verdict and we intend to file an appeal. From the inception, Monster Energy has been willing to resolve this matter in a fair and equitable manner and we will continue to make additional efforts to reach a just resolution of this dispute”.

So expect more court-time fun from this case in the future. Meanwhile, talking of fun, Rolling Stone has also delved into the various legal submissions and arguments that were shared in the run up to and during this trial, and has noted that Monster’s belief that it had the OK to use the Beastie Boys tracks stemmed from a marketing guy asking Z-Trip if he “approved” of the video they’d made of his post-snowboarding party, and him replying by email “dope!”

And while the court accepted that “dope!” could be interpreted to communicate “approval” of the video, the powers that be ruled that someone approving of a video doesn’t necessarily mean they are approving use of any copyright material in it. Which is another important lesson for us all I think. Well, for idiots mainly.