Beastie Boys Win Copyright Fight Against Monster Energy

Beastie Boys Win Copyright Fight Against Monster Energy Adam Yauch and Michael Diamond of The Beastie Boys

Thirty years ago, when the Beastie Boys were unheard of, they put their trust in a young lawyer named Kenneth Anderson. On Thursday, he validated their trust by helping them win a big copyright verdict.

As you may have already read, a federal jury in Manhattan returned a verdict on Thursday that the energy drink company Monster Energy Co. owes the Beastie Boys $1.7 million for using the band’s music in a promotional video without authorization. Monster acknowledged infringement, so the main issue at trial was damages. The seminal hip hop group had sought up to $2.5 million, while Monster argued that it should pay just $125,000.

A team of lawyers from Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, including Anderson, represented the Beastie Boys. Anderson coordinated the litigation, but he didn’t do the heavy lifting in court. Sheppard Mullin partner Paul Garrity gave the opening statement and Kevin Puvalowski gave the summation. S. Reid Kahn and Dana Susman of Kane Kessler represented Monster.

One lesson from Anderson’s career is that if you want an interesting practice, it helps to have hobbies outside of work. Anderson said in an interview that he first met the Beastie Boys when he was a fledging lawyer at a small firm in Manhattan in the early 1980s. On a suggestion from one of their parents, the Beastie Boys had come to the firm’s offices with a legal question. Anderson had a passion for music, so an older partner at the firm encouraged the band to consult with him. “He said to them that I spoke their language,” Anderson told us.

The relationship clearly boosted Anderson’s profile. In 1989, when the Beastie Boys had already become a household name, he represented them in a multimillion-dollar dispute over royalties with their former record label manager Russell Simmons, who MTV has called “the most important businessman in the history of hip hop.” Simmons had some choice words for Anderson at the time, telling Spin Magazine that he’s a “slick young lawyer … who wants to make a name for himself.”

Today, Anderson’s clients also include the songwriter Ben Folds and the country music group the Dixie Chicks. This client base has produced some interesting cases over the years. In 2002, when Anderson was at Loeb & Loeb, he helped the Dixie Chicks settle a contract spat with their record label Sony Music Entertainment. Earlier this year, Anderson helped the Beastie Boys settle a headline-grabbing dispute with the toy company Goldieblox Inc. over its critically acclaimed commercial parodying the song “Girls.”

In the Monster case, the band was upset about the energy drink company using their music in a video about a snowboarding event it sponsored. The band members argued that Monster made it appear that they were endorsing its products. In his will, deceased Beastie Boy Adam “MCA” Yauch wrote that he didn’t want his music used for advertising purposes.

Monster had argued that one of its employees was genuinely confused about whether the band authorized use of the songs. After Thursday’s verdict came down, Monster said in a statement that it will move to set aside the verdict. It also said that it has long been willing to “resolve this matter in a fair and equitable manner” and that it “continues to make additional efforts to reach a just resolution.”

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