Beastie Boys Prevail in $1.7 Million Lawsuit Against Monster Energy Drink
A federal jury in New York has awarded Michael “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, the surviving members of groundbreaking group the Beastie Boys, $1.7 million dollars in damages after an eight day trial over copyright violations. The complaint also invokes New York Civil Rights Law Sec. 51, a rarely used provision that the group used to assert publicity rights over Diamond and Horovitz’s actual voices. The defendant, Monster Beverage Corp, admittedly cribbed the bands songs without permission.
Monster’s Video Violates Beastie Boys Copyright
The lawsuit stemmed from a 2012 online promotional video from the Monster-sponsored snowboarding competition dubbed “Ruckus in the Rockies.” A portion of the video, which Monster uploaded to YouTube, contained snippets of several Beastie Boys classics, including “So Whatcha Want,” “Sabotage,” and “Pass the Mic.” The video ended with the message “RIP MCA,” in reference to Adam “MCA” Yauch, the third member of the legendary group. Yauch succumbed to his 3-year battle with cancer the day before the “Ruckus in the Rockies.” Yauch’s estate is a party to the litigation.
The group’s complaint alleges that the video is “comprised substantially of excerpts from the Beastie Boys Sound Recordings and the Beastie Boys Musical Compositions, totaling more than three minutes in duration.” The suit goes on to state that “the text accompanying Monster’s internet postings, video, and MP3 conveyed to consumers the impression that the Beastie Boys permitted the use of their name and intellectual property and participated in connection with Monster’s promotion of its products and events.”
The Jury’s Award
The jury agreed, and awarded the group $120,000.00 per violation for ten separate copyright violations. The jury also awarded $500,000.00 in damages for Monster’s use of the band’s “persona” without permission, which created the impression that the Beastie Boys were endorsing the popular energy drink. Monster, while admitting to copyright violations, disputes the amount of the jury award.
Monster Will File Appeal
Monster, in a statement, claimed “[a]lthough Monster Energy has great respect for the verdict of the jury, we strongly disagree with it. We will make an application to the Court to set aside the verdict and we intend to file an appeal. From the inception, Monster Energy has been willing to resolve this matter in a fair and equitable manner and we will continue to make additional efforts to reach a just resolution of this dispute.” It is not uncommon for prevailing plaintiffs to agree to a lesser award in exchange for a promise from the defendant not to appeal.
When asked how the group felt about the verdict, Horovitz replied “We’re happy.”