On June 15, 2015, a New York federal court ordered Monster Energy to pay the Beastie Boys $667,849.14 in attorney’s fees. This award comes after the Beastie Boys obtained a $1.7 million damages award in 2014 after Monster Energy ran a promotional video on its website that incorporated portions of five Beastie Boys songs without the Beastie Boys’ permission. Monster Energy unsuccessfully argued that they had obtained a license from DJ Z-Trip to use the Beastie Boys remix. Z-Trip had previously 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. However, the court found that Monster Energy never obtained authorization from the actual rights holders to the musical compositions or the sound recordings. The jury found Monster Energy’s actions to be willful copyright infringement as well as false endorsement under the Lanham Act and awarded $1.7 million in damages. On the heels of this damage award, the Beastie Boys petitioned the court for $2,385,175.50 in attorney’s fees. Though the attorney’s fee award was eventually whittled down to $667,849.14, due in part to the fact that (1) fees were not recoverable on the Lanham Act claims, (2) certain legal work on certain issues were not recoverable by Monster, and (3) the Beastie Boys’ bills were abnormally high since the case was primarily staffed using senior attorneys, the court noted that the fee award was still substantial and when coupled with the damages award, properly compensated the Beastie Boys under the Copyright Act.
As a result of this substantial attorney’s fee award, it is likely that other copyright owners may seek damages and attorney’s fees in court for the appropriation of their work. Rather than try to procure a monetary settlement or seek redress through ADR procedures, copyright owners may opt to pursue their claims in court in order to obtain an appropriate damage award and a substantial fee award. Thus, this decision may motivate copyright owners to seek redress under the Copyright Act in court since they have some assurances that their attorney’s fees or a substantial portion of those fees are recoverable.