You gotta fight for your right to party, but you also have to fight for your right to not have your copyright infringed upon. That's the message the Beastie Boys are trying to send to Monster Energy and the creative community at large in a trial that started yesterday in New York that has many links to the action sports world and how we conduct business when it comes to using others' photos, videos and music.
Tuesday after Ad-Rock's testimony against Monster Energy Drink.
via Spin (yesterday)
Nearly two years after the Beastie Boys filed a breach of copyright suit against Monster Energy, the trial will finally head to court on Tuesday at the Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse in New York City. Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz will reportedly take the witness stand.
The case stems from a number of promotional materials for a Monster event called "Ruckus in the Rockies" which featured a mix by mash-up producer Z-Trip that included a number of the group's songs. The will of Adam "MCA" Yauch says that he doesn't want his image or art used with advertising, which will undoubtedly play a role in the upcoming case.
Last year, the Beastie Boys filed suit against the toy company GoldieBlox for using a parody of their 1987 track "Girls" in a commercial. That matter was settled out of court.
Six months ago, Monster attempted to diffuse their responsibility in the case by insinuating that Z-Trip gave them permission to use portions of a number of the band's tracks in an email that simply read "Dope!" Judges at the time called Monster's claims "reckless" and "risible," we'll find out soon whether the caffeine company will face the same fate at this trial.
the two surviving members of the Beastie Boys, Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz and Michael "Mike D" Diamond sat besuited, in sneakers, alongside loved ones including Horovitz's wife and singer Kathleen Hanna as well as Dechen Wangdu, the widow of late Beastie Boy Adam Yauch.
The case centers around a video posted by Monster of a snowboarding event called "Ruckus in the Rockies" that the company threw in Canada. The video, posted online a few days after the death of Yauch, included five Beastie Boys songs -- "Sabotage," "Pass the Mic," "Make Some Noise," "So What'cha Want" and "Looking Down the Barrel Of a Gun" -- that a DJ, Z-Trip, hired by Monster to perform at the event, had placed into his "Beastie Boys Megamix." The video shown in court is a fairly typical promotional video featuring the company's green logo placed across the scene using the "Megamix" throughout.
The defense plainly stated that they had infringed on the Beasties' work, but that the prosecution's claim of $1 million in damages for the song licenses and another $1 million for the "implied endorsement" of being featured in the Monster video were "nonsense," saying that the defense's forthcoming witnesses would prove damages no larger than $125,000. They characterized the misuse as "a mistake."
After opening statements, Ad-Rock took the witness stand, seeming both focused and bemused in equal turn. The Beasties' attorney took Horovitz through an accounting of his musical career, intending to impress on the jury the value of the Beasties' work and their extremely rare success, in order to bolster their case for a larger reward. Horovitz said his career "began in high school," saying they were "very lucky," having sold "millions of records around the world. Very lucky." Horovitz was also asked to describe the Beasties' artistic process. Beginning with a smirk, he said that "We get together every day. Music always comes first," going on to say that a song "can take a year from beginning to end," and "a couple years for each album."
Horovitz couldn't help from smiling and laughing at some of the music business rudiments the case required him to explain, such as the nature of a "single." He described the importance of the five songs used as "very important to our catalog."
During cross examination, proceedings got even more humorous, as the defense tried to establish that the Beastie Boys' claim of never licensing their work for consumer products, which Horovitz called "a form of selling out," wasn't true. This entailed Horovitz examining several pictures of Mike Diamond posted in a sailor outfit for the watch promotional campaign. Asked if it was Mike D in a sailor costume, Horovitz responded with a smile "He sure is." It seemed to take everything in Horovitz's power not to laugh out loud as the defense brought forth a gargantuan poster featuring Mike D's sailor picture for the jury to examine.
The case is expected to take five or six days and will likely find the Beastie Boys being awarded some remuneration for the infringement of their work, but the nuances around whether the "RIP MCA" still and the implied endorsement will impact the amount of awarded damages.
Monster Energy has released a statement as well:
Monster has no intention of litigating this matter in the media, but since the case has now received publicity we felt we should let the public know the facts as we see them. Monster in good faith believed it had obtained the rights to use a compilation of certain Beastie Boys music for an Internet video. The video recounted a snowboarding event in Canada that Monster sponsored where the after party featured many Beastie Boys songs played by the DJs in honor of the recent death of one of the Beastie Boys’ members. The music that Monster used was provided by one of the DJs [Z-Trip], who told Monster he had permission. When Monster was notified by the Beastie Boys that the company was mistaken in its belief that it had the proper authorization, Monster immediately removed the video from the Internet. The video received less than 14,000 views during the brief period it was online. This lawsuit is solely about what, if anything, Monster must pay to the Beastie Boys because of Monster’s good faith mistake. In Monster’s view the Beastie Boys are demanding sums that are far beyond any reasonable fair market value.