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Beastie Boys 'make some noise' about the use of their songs

Imagine that you work for a company that is doing promotions for an event. In several of your advertising videos you use the songs of a famous band. You assume that you and your company are following all of the necessary laws until one day you receive a cease-and-desist letter stating that you infringed on the band’s work. But how could this have happened and what could have been done differently to prevent the possibly difficult litigation that could soon follow?

Our Los Angeles County readers may get an answer to this question by looking at a case out of New York where a similar problem occurred. In this case, Monster Energy found itself at the other end of a cease-and-desist letter in which the energy drink manufacturer was accused of copyright infringement after it allegedly used four Beastie Boys songs without the band’s permission. The legal issue has now sparked a debate between the two over whether Monster is really guilty of violating intellectual property laws or not.

According to the Beastie Boys, “Monster had no right to use their copyrighted recordings” and were asked to take down the promotional videos, which eventually happened. Though the band sought $2.5 million in their lawsuit, a federal judge recently decided to lower that amount and awarded them $1.7 million instead. Monster believes it should only have to pay $125,000 of that.

That’s because, according to Monster, they should not be held liable for the copyright infringement but rather the DJ from whom they got the songs. Monster claims that the DJ made “false claims that he had authority to use the songs in a remix” that were then used in the videos. It’s likely because of this that Monster says that it intends on appealing the decision.

So what could have been done differently to prevent this litigation? As some of our readers might suggest, Monster could have ensured that there was no copyright infringement by double checking with the band before using the music. Taking someone else’s word for it when it comes to intellectual property can be a risky chance, especially if there is no contractual proof to back up these claims. It’s a lesson many of our readers probably hope to learn from this case rather than one of their own.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Beastie Boys Win $1.7M for Snowboarding Promo,” Megan Gallegos, June 9, 2014

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