Beastie Boys were victorious in their multi-million dollar lawsuit against Monster Energy Drink over copyright infringement. According to Reuters, the hip-hop group was awarded $1.7 million dollars on Thursday following an eight-day trial in New York Federal Court.
The group originally filed their lawsuit in August 2012, alleging that Monster “willfully, maliciously, and oppressively” used portions of the group’s songs in a promos video for an event called Ruckus in the Rockies. Lawyers for Adam ‘Ad-Rock’ Horovitz and Mike ‘Mike D’ Diamond also argued the clip implied the band were involved in the event.
The suit sought a permanent injunction, as well as statutory damages of $150,000 for each infringement of the group’s works — or, $2.5 million total.
Over the course of the trial, both Horovitz and Diamond took the stand on behalf of the group. For his part, Horovitz argued the value of the Beastie’s catalog, stating that the creation of a song often times took “a year from beginning to end…. and a couple years for each album” to be complete. “We don’t license our songs for products,” he added. Diamond reiterated the importance of their recorded work saying, “We have not been able to tour since MCA, Adam Yauch, died. We can’t make new music.”
In his will, Yauch banned usage of his music in advertisements. His bandmates have abided by those wishes; In addition to their suit against Monster, the group took legal action against feminist toy company GoldieBlox after they used a parody of their song “Girls” in a commercial.
For their part, Monster Energy never denied using the music without a license, but claimed it was “a mistake.” DJ Z-Trip was set to spin Beastie Boys’ music at the Ruckus afterparty in honor of the then-recent passing of Yauch. Monster was apparently told that Z-Trip had permission to use the tracks, and the company went ahead and put them in their video. While admitting fault, their defense revolved around reducing the requested compensation; Beastie Boys were seeking $1 million for the song licenses and $1 million more for the “implied endorsement” the video projected. The defense argued $93,000 and $125,000 was more reasonable for the five weeks the video was up, during which time it received under 14,000 views.
Furthermore, the defense’s cross-examination sought to discredit Beastie Boys’ claim that they never used their music for licensing. A main focus was Mike D’s appearance in an ad for a watch company, as well as songs used in a snowboarding video for the same company. Horovitz defended the allowance, saying his bandmate was friends with the company owner and that profits were going towards charity. Besides which, he added, “We like sports… We come from a community of snowboarders, skateboarders, extreme sports world, so we’re enthusiasts of that.”
When Diamond took the stand, he revealed that the band had refused to let filmmakers use their song “Sabotage” in the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle of the same name released earlier this year. Despite being offered “a lot of money”, they felt the usage “felt too much like an endorsement.” Diamond dismissed the idea that they had let The Roots use the song to intro Schwarzenegger when he appeared on Jimmy Fallon, saying they didn’t know it had happened but didn’t mind because they “are fans of that show.”
In closing arguments, Beastie Boys’ lawyer Kevin Puvalowski called Monster’s use of the rappers’ music “absolutely egregious.” He called out the corporation for trying to cash in on the band’s “cool”, and said, “They didn’t care if their employees were stealing from Beastie Boys.”
Monster’s lawyer, Reid Kahn (KAHN!), said the prosecutions contention that the video implied endorsement from Beastie Boys was “contrary to common sense.” Kahn added, “The plaintiffs try to take the undisputed evidence and spin some tale of an insidious corporate conspiracy.”