If you’ve attended my “Marketing Intervention” seminars, you may remember the section called “Don’t Get Sued.”
In it, I discuss using copyrighted music illegally in advertising.
If you believe that your business or your client’s business is immune to copyright infringement litigation, then you can stop reading this right now.
PRO TIP: This applies to every business around the world.
The makers of Monster Energy Drink made a video to commemorate their “Ruckus In The Rockies” event.
The real kickers: this video was not a commercial, and only appeared on YouTube.
Monster used three songs from the legendary rap group “The Beastie Boys” in the video, without their permission.
Once word about this got to the Beastie Boys, they were not happy for a few reasons:
- One of their founding members, Adam Yauch, died in 2012. His will stated that none of the group’s music would be used in advertising.
- Since The Beastie Boys became famous as a trio, the fact that they’re now a duo means they can no longer release albums or tour – effectively eliminating that money stream.
- They sued a toymaker “Goldieblox” in 2012 for using one of their songs (“Girls”) without permission in a video, and settled out of court. The Boys have been down this path.
Here’s a direct quote (bold added):
“Monster claimed that an employee at the company thought permission had been granted.”
Thought permission had been granted?
There is zero excuse for an ad agency or Monster not knowing whether they had permission.
A simple Google search would have turned up the litigation from Goldieblox in 2012.
I’ll See You In Court
In New York City on Thursday, June 5, 2014, the The Beastie Boys” were awarded $1.7 million in their lawsuit against Monster.
That’s $633,333.33 per song illegally used.
We’ll Appeal The Ruling
Attorneys for Monster say they’ll appeal, which they have every right to do.
I hope (and believe) they’ll lose that ruling, too.
As well they should.
Why Did This Happen?
Now the Boys are (deservedly) richer from these three simple mistakes that Monster (or their advertising agency) made – from which there is no excuse.
See how well the “I didn’t know” excuse flies in a courtroom.
The Bottom Line
1) If you don’t know that you can legally use something in your advertising – don’t.
That goes for music, images, the names of other businesses (as a landmark or reference point), etc.
Anything that could have a copyright attached to it.
2) Do your homework. It might just save your wallet, and your company.
Even though I’m not a huge fan of the Beastie Boys music, I cannot applaud loudly, or long enough on their behalf.