Intellectual Property Attorney

Beastie Boys Score Copyright Victory Against Monster Energy

A jury in Manhattan has awarded the famed-music group (and hip-hop innovators) Beastie Boys $1.7 million for the unauthorized use of the group’s music in a promotional video used by beverage manufacturer Monster Energy Corporation.

According to a Complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Monster Energy made a promotional video for an event known as “Ruckus in the Rockies 2012” that included a soundtrack featuring excerpts of various Beastie Boys songs, such as “So Watcha Want”, “Sabotage”, “Looking Down The Barrel Of A Gun” and “Make Some Noise”. The Complaint alleged causes of action for copyright infringement, Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1051 et seq., and New York Civil Rights Law (NYCRL) § 51). (NYCRL § 51 protects against the unauthorized use of names, pictures and voices for advertising or trademark purposes.)

Rolling Stone reports that the Beastie Boys sought damages over $2 million. However, Monster Energy claimed that, at most, it could be liable for only $125,000 and claimed that their conduct was inadvertent and not “willful”. According to media reports, a Monster Energy employee had mistakenly believed Monster Energy had the requisite permission to use the Beastie Boys’ songs in the video. During the eight day trial, Beastie Boys member Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz testified that the group would never license songs for the purpose of endorsing commercial products, according to
USA Today. The jury found that Monster Energy’s conduct had been “willful” and awarded the Beastie Boys $1.2 million for the acts of infringement and $500,000 for false endorsement, according to the
New York Daily News.

Monster Energy reportedly will file a motion to set aside the verdict and, if necessary, file an appeal although the grounds for either of those actions did not appear to have been disclosed to the media.

This case is a great example of the importance of ensuring that any use of music (as well as use of images, names, etc.) in a video or other work is authorized. Damages can be significant for unauthorized use, as this case exemplifies. Moreover, music groups should be vigilant in their efforts to discover and then prosecute unauthorized use of their music.

The case is Beastie Boys, et al v. Monster Energy Corporation, 12-cv-6065 (U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York).

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