During the past quarter-century, the music of the Beastie Boys has provided the soundtrack for many sessions throughout all walks of action sports, from backyard skate jams to backcountry snow missions. The New York-based trio's party-time playlists are so deeply rooted in the culture that it comes with little surprise that the group's songs have been regularly used in videos and sharable online.
However, the illicit use of their material for commercial purposes is at the center of a recent lawsuit filed by the surviving members of the Beastie Boys and the estate of the late Adam Yauch against energy drink giant Monster Beverage Company.
Filed Aug. 8 in U.S. District Court in New York, the lawsuit alleges that "Monster, without plaintiffs' consent, synchronized and recorded (Beastie Boys music) with visual and other material in the creation of promotional video . . . for Monster products."
Specifically, the suit refers to unlicensed Beastie Boys material in a promo clip for Monster's "Ruckus in the Rockies 2012" snowboarding event held in May, and a linked downloadable free MP3 containing a 23-minute melody filled with some of their most popular tunes.
Monster did not respond to requests for comment.
"Unfortunately, I'm not able to comment on the case," Theodore Max, a lawyer representing the Beastie Boys, told ESPN.com.
The lawsuit helps make an important distinction between promotional and artistic use of Beastie Boys music. Skaters and snowboarders in particular have long had the blessing of the band to use its music in personal "home-movie" videos created solely to showcase riding and camera skills. But to use Beastie Boys music without permission to sell the corporate products of the action-sports industry is another matter entirely.
Yauch, who died of cancer on May 4 at the age of 47, addressed this in his will -- filed in New York's Surrogate Court on Aug. 6 -- by stating "in no event may my image or name or any music or any artistic property created by me be used for advertising purposes."
In the Monster case, plaintiffs Michael "Mike D" Diamond, Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz, and Dechen Yauch, as executor of the estate of Adam "MCA" Yauch, are seeking "no less than $150,000" for each infringement, among other damages, according to the complaint.
Another dose of legal trouble for Monster surfaced on Aug. 9, as the company's U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing disclosed that an unnamed state attorney general's office was investigating the beverage company's advertising and the ingredients of its energy drinks.