Continuing to vigorously enforce their intellectual property rights, the Beastie Boys won a $1.7 million verdict in a copyright infringement and false endorsement suit against Monster Energy Company.
The rap group filed suit after the drink company used five of its songs for a soundtrack that played to a video recap of a snowboarding competition sponsored by Monster. The words “RIP MCA” appeared at the end of the video, that was, according to the Beastie Boys, an allusion to member Adam “MCA” Yauch who had passed just days prior to the airing of the soundtrack. The soundtrack was also made available as a free download on Monster’s Web site, Facebook page, and YouTube channel.
At trial in New York federal court, Monster admitted that its use was infringing in the company’s opening statement. With liability conceded, the weeklong proceedings focused on the issue of damages. Monster told jurors that an award ranging from $93,000 to $125,000 was appropriate based on the five weeks the video was available online when it garnered less than 14,000 views.
The Beastie Boys requested a total of $2 million, emphasizing the group’s refusal to license their songs for commercial purposes. Surviving members of the group cited Yauch’s will, which specifically included a provision denying his permission to use the group’s songs for advertisements.
While the jury awarded less than the Boys requested, the $1.7 million verdict far surpassed Monster’s suggestion. Finding the infringement willful, jurors awarded the Beastie Boys $1.2 million in statutory damages on the copyright claims and $500,000 in damages on the false endorsement claim.
Monster reacted to the verdict with a statement that it intends to appeal.
To read the verdict form in Beastie Boys v. Monster Energy Company, click here.
Why it matters: The suit is a cautionary tale for marketers who use copyrighted songs to advertise their products or services. The Beastie Boys have made no secret of their refusal to license their music and are not afraid to litigate to protect their rights. In addition to the suit against Monster, the rappers filed suit against GoldieBlox last year after the toy maker used the group’s song “Girls” in an ad. The high-profile dispute ended with a settlement deal where GoldieBlox issued a public apology and agreed to donate a percentage of revenues to one or more charities selected by the Beastie Boys.