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Monster loses attempt to overturn Beastie Boys copyright infringement ruling

By | Published on Monday 8 December 2014

Beastie Boys

Monster Energy Drink has failed to have the ruling that it infringed the Beastie Boys’ intellectual property rights overturned. A judge last week upheld a jury ruling in June that the company should pay $1.7 million in damages to the group.

As previously reported, Monster used a mix of Beastie Boys tracks in a promotional video for a snowboarding event it staged in 2012, which was posted online shortly after the death of the group’s Adam Yauch. Monster admitted to copyright infringement but argued that $125,000 would be a more reasonable figure for damages.

The brand maintained that it believed that the DJ who made the mix, Z-Trip, had gained approval for the use of Beastie Boys’ music in the video. Though it emerged in the trial that this ‘approval’ came in a one word email from Z-Trip saying “DOPE!” when asked what he thought of the final edit.

And in a ruling on Monster’s attempt to have the jury’s decision on the case voided last Thursday, Judge Paul Engelmayer criticised the man who commissioned the video, Nelson Phillips.

The judge wrote: “Notwithstanding his background [not being in music] and his lack of training in music licensing, there was ample evidence from which a jury could conclude that Phillips well appreciated the concept of copyright and the consequent need to obtain permission to use an artist’s music in the promotional videos he created for Monster”.

Part of the reason for the high damages figure Monster was ordered to pay was the video’s implied endorsement of the drink by the rap group. The judge maintained this in his ruling, adding that the video gave the viewer “ample basis” to assume that the Beastie Boys were endorsing the product by seemingly providing their music to the video.

Monster apparently plans to appeal this decision. Meanwhile, as previously reported, Universal – as the Beastie Boys’ label – is also seeking damages against the drinks brand for copyright infringement.