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Jan 20 2015

You Gotta Fight For Your Right To . . . Legal Fees!

To quote Kenny Rogers, “You gotta know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away and know when to run.”  Emergy drink company Monster should have heeded Kenny’s advice in the lawsuit brought by the great and influential rap group Beastie Boys against the company.   A court in June 2014 ruled in favor of  Beastie Boys and found that Monster infringed on their music. But the group claims they actually lost money even though they jury awarded $1.7 million in damages because they  rang up $2.4 million in lawyer fees due to what they argue are Monster’s evasive legal techniques. As a result, the Beasties are asking Monster to shoulder some of that financial burden and are taking the company back to federal court.

“Monster’s tactics significantly increased the costs for Beastie Boys to vindicate their intellectual property rights, such that, absent an award of attorney’s fees and costs, plaintiff’s success at trial would become a Pyrrhic victory,” the Beastie Boys’ legal team wrote in their legal filing Saturday (via Billboard). Attorneys for Monster did not comment.

copyright logoAfter two years of litigation and an eight-day trial, the Beastie Boys accuse Monster of failing to engage in a good-faith negotiation and then attempting to overturn the verdict by filing an appeal that accrued even more legal bills for the band.

Monster admitted  to using snippets of four Beastie tracks without authorization in a promotional video that was online for five weeks. The company had argued that the infringement was only worth $125,000.00 – a ridiculously low sum considering the fame of the songs and the size of the company and the nature of the infringement.

The Copyright Act provides for the awarding of legal fees if the plaintiff proves an infringement of registered works of art so the group is on strong legal grounds. But the case shows the danger of over-aggressively defending these claims. It is bizarre that Monster would think they could use Beastie Boys tracks on their commercial without getting permission and  paying for it; but once caught and sued, it is equally bizarre that they did not try to reduce the damage by trying to settle early at a reasonable number and by limiting the battle. Copyright defendants facing indefensible claims need to employ a variety of techniques to reduce their exposure and try to stop the bleeding.
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