Beastie Boys Trial Against Monster Energy Drinks Begins

In 2012, the Beastie Boys brought suit against Monster Energy Drink, claiming both copyright infringement and unfair competition resulting from Monster’s use of their songs in an online promotional video.  The Beastie Boys are seeking $2 Million in damages.

The controversy stems from a promotional video about a snowboarding competition in Canada called “Ruckus in the Rockies,” which is organized and sponsored by Monster.  After the event, Monster posted a video online of the competition and the after-party, including a mash-up mix performed by DJ Z-Trip.   The mash-up mix included Beastie Boys songs “Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun,” “Make Some Noise,” “Sabotage,” and “So What’cha Want.”  DJ Z-Trip’s mash-up mix was made available for free download on the website.  At the end of the video, a statement was displayed stating “RIP MCA.”  MCA (Adam Yauch) was a member of the Beastie Boys who died of cancer a day before the event.

After producing the video, Monster submitted it to DJ Z-Trip by e-mail for his approval, to which  Z-Trip responded “Dope!”  Relying on this, Monster submitted a third-party complaint against DJ Z-Trip for breach of contract and fraud, claiming that Z-Trip fraudulently represented himself as one who could issue a copyright license on behalf of the Beastie Boys.  This complaint was summarily dismissed as

“no reasonable person could understand Z-Trip to have granted Monster the rights” to the Beastie Boys’ copyrighted material. http://www.spin.com/articles/beastie-boys-monster-energy-drink-lawsuit-win-z-trip-tossed-out/

The Beastie Boys’ trial began on Tuesday, May 27,  2014 in New York.  Adam (Ad-Rock) Horovitz testified at the trial that the Beastie Boys have never sold their songs for promotional purposes.  The deceased Adam Yauch’s will similarly states that he does not want his image or art used with advertising, providing further evidence that the Beastie Boys never intended to sell their songs for promotional purposes.  Monster’s position, however, is that the Beastie Boys have in-fact used their likenesses in advertising, presenting at trial images from a Nixon watch campaign containing one of the group’s members.

Monster has released a statement (available at: http://pitchfork.com/news/55343-monster-energy-drink-releases-statement-about-beastie-boys-trial/) regarding the matter, conceding copyright infringement, but that Monster “in good faith believed it had obtained the rights to use a compilation of certain Beastie Boys music.”  Once notified of their infringement, Monster removed the infringing video.  Monster’s position is that while they did infringe the copyright, but less than 14,000 viewers accessed the video, and the demand of  $2 Million is “illogical.”  Monster expressed a willingness to pay $125,000 in damages.

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