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OFF BEAT: Beastie Boys prevail in fight for their right to copyright


The surviving members of party-centric rap trio Beastie Boys have a new excuse to celebrate after a judge awarded them $1.7 million in a copyright infringement lawsuit last week earlier this month.

U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer in New York said Corona, California-based sports drink company Monster Energy Co. did not have permission to use a previously authorized medley of Beastie Boys tracks in a promotional video for a snowboarding event.

Monster obtained the medley from the website of a disc jockey known as Z-Trip, who had attended an annual snowboarding competition in Canada hosted by Monster. Lawyers for Monster attempted to blame the unauthorized use of the music on Z-Trip, who had alerted Nelson Phillips, director of marketing for Monster's Canadian business unit, that his medley of the Beasties Boys music was available for free to download. The company said a subsequent e-mail exchange between Mr. Phillips and Z-Trip represented contractual authorization to use the music.

Judge Engelmayer said Monster's brief interactions with Z-Trip did not represent a license to illegally use the music of the Beastie Boys for commercial purposes, noting Monster never contacted the Beastie Boys, their management, or any agent or representative to obtain permission to use the music.

“Even if an offer and acceptance of an exchange of promises constituting consideration could be found in Phillips' sparse communications with Z-Trip, no reasonable person could understand Z-Trip to have granted Monster the rights necessary here,” the ruling stated. “It would take an heroic effort of explication to derive such a conclusion from their words and informal email exchanges.”