The Beastie Boys sued Monster Beverage Corporation, the energy drink maker, earlier this year. At issue was a promotional video that Monster put together that prominently featured the Beastie Boys’ music.The Beastie Boys won that lawsuit. But it ended up before a judge again.
Now the surviving members of The Beastie Boys have been handed a second victory. But why did the case go back to court again?
According to court documents, the initial jury had found that “Monster had intended to deceive consumers” into believing that the Beastie Boys endorsed their product. The amount Monster was ordered to pay up to the tune of $2.7 million.
But Monster fought the decision, again according to court documents:
“Monster argues that the evidence was insufficient to support the finding of willful infringement. Monster argues that the evidence was insufficient to support either a finding of a false endorsement or that Monster acted with intentional deception.”
But this second judge begs to differ. Apparently Monster’s claim is that the tracks they used were a re-mix done my a DJ named Zach Sciacca, who goes by the name “Z-Trip.”
“In early 2011, Z-Trip had entered into an agreement with the Beastie Boys to create a remix of some of their songs to promote the group’s then-upcoming album, Hot Sauce Committee Part II. Under the agreement, Z-Trip was authorized to offer the remix for free as a promotional item.”
Monster says that they got Z-Trip’s permission to use his mix of the Beastie’s songs in their video.
“However, Z-Trip did not have the right to sell or license the remix, or to authorize third parties to use it. Nor did he obtain any rights to the underlying Beastie Boys songs.”
In the end, it boiled down to the fact that:
“Monster never obtained, or attempted to obtain, permission from the Beastie Boys or their management to use the Beastie Boys’ music in the video.”
But Monster claims that Monster’s regional marketing director, Nelson Phillips, did not know that he had to obtain explicit permission from the Beastie Boys, not just Z-Trip. The judge wasn’t buying it.
“Notwithstanding his background (in the forestry and skiing industries) 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.”
The judge further found that the Beastie’s music was used so much in the video, that any reasonable person would assume they had given permission.
“The Beastie Boys are featured as prominently in the video as Monster — where Monster is dominantly featured pictorially, the Beastie Boys are dominantly featured aurally. The Beastie Boys’ music fills almost all of the video.”
The video had been uploaded to YouTube and concluded with the words “RIP MCA,” referring to the then-recent death of Beastie’s member Adam Yauch. Universal Music Group is next in line to get a piece of Monster over the video. They have filed their own lawsuit against the company.