Two years ago, just days after the death of Beastie Boys member Adam “MCA” Yauch, Monster Energy Drink featured five Beasties songs from Z-Trip’s Beasties Megamix in a promo video for a snowboarding event called Ruckus In The Rockies. The end of the video featured the phrase “RIP MCA” in the same typeface as Monster’s logo. All this was a direct violation of Yauch’s will, which specified that no Beasties music or his likeness be used in commercials, so the surviving Beasties sued Monster. That case made it to court yesterday in New York’s Financial District.
As Billboard reports, Yauch’s bandmates Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz and Michael “Mike D” Diamond were there, as was Horovitz’s wife Kathleen Hanna and Yauch’s widow Dechen Wangdu. Both the plaintiff and the defense offered lengthy opening statements that caused the judge to remind them to stay concise. Essentially, Monster is admitting that they unlawfully used the Beasties’ music but disputing the $1 million payout the Beasties are asking for, saying the damages should be more like $125,000.
Lots of laffs on the trial’s first day, per Billboard’s report. Monster’s lawyer reportedly told the jury, “You’ll learn during the course of this case that ‘dope’… is a positive affirmation.” And in an effort to prove that the Beasties actually have licensed their images for ads before, the defense asked an amused Horovitz whether Diamond was wearing a sailor suit in this watch ad. Horovitz’s smirking reply: “He sure is.” Earlier, Horovitz held back laughter as he described the Beasties’ creative process and considerable success in an effort to establish the claim to a larger payout. According to Billboard, “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.'” The trial continues today.
“You gotta fight for your right to protect your intellectual property” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, you know?
UPDATE: Grantland explains why the definition of “dope” is involved in this case:
Upstairs, there were plenty more opportunities for juxtaposed oddness. After the kindly but controlling judge got done explaining the concept of circumstantial evidence to the 10-person jury via an anecdote about a wet umbrella, and promising them a free continental breakfast, he then introduced “the plaintiffs, the Beastie Boys,” for the first time. And when their boyish gray-haired lawyer made his opening statement, he made sure to nail one point in particular to the “ladies and gentlemen of the jury”: “The Beastie Boys, as you’ll learn during the course of this trial, are an iconic New York band.”
And that, alone, must have been amusingly awkward enough for Diamond and Horovitz: to know that this calculatedly unbiased jury — an older-skewing, racially diverse group — would not have been allowed to step foot in that box if they had anything more than a sketchy bare inkling of who the Beastie Boys are. In that vein, there would be more. See, the Monster advertising in question was a video of a branded event in Colorado, during which the Beastie Boys music was played by DJ Z-Trip; basically, Monster is now attempting to claim that Z-Trip misled Monster into believing that he, himself, had cleared the music for use in the corresponding wrap-up YouTube video/ad. The reason why? An email he sent back, after viewing a rough cut of the video, that read only one word: “dope.” Explained Monster’s lawyer, who looked a bit like a meaner Bob Balaban, in a bit of modern linguistics: “Dope means ‘great, fabulous, fine, I love it.’ It’s slang, positive slang, indicating approval.”
[Photo by New York Daily News.]