Popular energy drink Monster Energy remains embroiled in a legal controversy over the use of remixed Beastie Boys songs. In 2012, the Beastie Boys learned that Monster Energy drinks had hired a third party, DJ Z-Trip, to create a promotional video remix, available to the public on YouTube, featuring some of the songs off the Beastie’s Grammy-nominated album ‘Check Your Head.’ The Beastie Boys sued Monster for copyright infringement, upon which Monster sued DJ Z-Trip for breach of contract.
In recent weeks, the parties have attempted to demonstrate the fair market value of licensing the Beastie Boys’ popular songs. U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, recently ruled that the Beastie Boys’ expert witness could not reference a prior settlement to estimate the value of their songs. In the prior case, the Beastie Boys settled with toy maker GoldieBlox for $1 million, after GoldieBlox unlawfully used one of the band’s songs in advertising.
The recent wrangling over appropriate damages comes on the heels of a ruling in November 2013, from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The case turned on several general matters of contract and copyright law. Judge Engelmayer’s ruling was not particularly sympathetic to Monster’s defenses. In the opinion, the court noted that Monster’s decision to let a subcontractor address all of the copyright issues was “reckless” and “unreasonable,” particularly in light of DJ Z-Trip’s lack of experience and the fact that the parties did not have a clear contract for services.
Some general tips for Atlanta businesses in light of this lawsuit:
- Get all agreements in writing. An email exchange between the parties, particularly one where nebulous slang language is used, may not constitute a “bargained for exchange,” and may, therefore, not be enforceable.
- Ensure that all parties agree to and understand the scope of a contract, particularly an agreement that involves intellectual property. Use an experienced business attorney with intellectual property licensing experience.
- Copyright infringement, regardless of intent, lack of knowledge, or attempts to delegate responsibility to a third party, has a strict liability standard. In other words, if your business uses copyrighted material without the permission of the creator, you are strictly liable, regardless of whether your company knew about the misuse or not.
If you own a small business, you know that protecting your company’s intellectual property requires constant vigilance in the global marketplace. Experienced litigator James J. (“Jim”) Thomas II is ready to help Georgia businesses defend their business reputations and intellectual property rights with the latest business litigation tools. Jim has more than 35 years of courtroom experience in the Atlanta area, and can handle complex business litigation as well as analysis, evaluation, and resolution of existing and potential litigation. For a free consultation, email Jim, or give him a call at 404-869-5248, or go to http://www.litigationatlanta.com.