Beastie Boys fight for rights to songs in trial against Monster Beverage

Beastie Boys member Adam Horovitz, also known as Ad-Rock, exits the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Lower Manhattan with his wife punk singer Kathleen Hanna on May 27, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Beastie Boys member Adam Horovitz, also known as Ad-Rock, exits the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Lower Manhattan with his wife punk singer Kathleen Hanna on May 27, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - The Beastie Boys hip-hop group turned to the courts on Tuesday to fight for their right to not let energy drink maker Monster Beverage use their songs.

A jury in Manhattan federal court heard opening statements in the case stemming from the popular Brooklyn-born band's attempts to hold Monster to account for unauthorised use of its music in a 2012 promotional video.

Paul Garrity, a lawyer for the Beastie Boys, said the Beastie Boys had made a choice years ago to not license their music to promote commercial products like the caffeine-filled drink sold by Monster, which was required to seek a license. "It stole the Beastie Boys' right to say no," Garrity said.

With members of the band in attendance, Garrity urged the four men and four women on the jury to award at least US$2 million (S$2.5 million) for copyright infringement and for false endorsement.

Reid Kahn, a lawyer for Monster, called that sum "illogical" and said the company should pay at most US$125,000. He acknowledged Monster infringed the copyrights, but only because an employee thought the company had permission for the music. "In this case, it turns out to have been a mistake," he said.

Filed in August 2012, the lawsuit centred on a video produced for an annual snowboarding competition Monster organises and sponsors in Canada called the Ruckus in the Rockies. After the event, Monster posted a promotional video on YouTube featuring the competition and an after-party attended by various DJs, including Z-Trip.

The video included a remix of Beastie Boys songs, including Sabotage, So What'cha Want and Make Some Noise. The video also included, at the end, a sentence saying "RIP MCA." Adam Yauch, a Beastie Boys member who went by the name "MCA", died a day before the snowboarding event after a battle with cancer.

The Beastie Boys complained in June 2012, saying Monster did not have permission to use Z-Trip's mix in the video. The lawsuit followed in August 2012.

Beastie Boys members Michael Diamond, or "Mike D", and Adam Horovitz, a.k.a. "Ad-Rock", were in attendance during trial on Tuesday, and Horovitz later testified. Yaunch's widow, Dechen Wangdu, also attended.