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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, December 7, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Blame for Beastie Boys Mashup Won’t Fall to DJ

MANHATTAN (CN) - A DJ will not have to answer for a compilation of Beastie Boys songs that Monster Energy used to promote its snowboarding event, a federal judge ruled.

Monster had posted the video on its YouTube channel in May 2012 to promote its snowboarding event, "Ruckus in the Rockies 2012."

The video was set to a remix created by DJ Z-Trip, or Zach Sciacca, of four Beastie Boys songs: "So Watcha Want," "Sabotage," "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun" and "Make Some Noise." The video also made mention of the ability of a free download.

"It is undisputed that Monster never contacted the Beastie Boys, their management, or any agent or representative to obtain permission to use the Beastie Boys' music compositions, sound recordings or marks in the video," U.S. District Judge Judge Paul Engelmayer wrote Monday.

The Beastie Boys fired off a cease-and-desist letter, and Monster removed the video from the Internet, edited it and replaced musical excepts with songs from the band Swollen Members.

In an ensuing complaint , the Beastie Boys claimed that Monster had no right to use its copyrighted recordings.

Monster in turn tried to deflect responsibility for any copyright infringement to Z-Trip, claiming that it relied on Z-Trip's false assertion that he had authority to use the songs in the remix.

In a third-party complaint, Monster said Z-Trip was responsible for "fraudulently leading Monster to believe that he had authority to license Monster to use for its own purposes." Monster presented email exchanges between Monster employee Nelson Phillips and Z-Trip, arguing that it constituted a contract between the parties.

It also argued that Z-Trip's use of the exclamation, "Dope!" in a May 2012 email indicated his acceptance of a business deal.

Z-Trip, whose real name is Zach Sciacca, disputed that he entered into a contract with Monster to make the remix and said he thus lacked authority to issue a license for the music.

Engelmayer agreed, noting that "there is ... no evidence on which a reasonable juror could find acceptance of contractual terms."

"Viewed in context, the word 'Dope!' as used by Z-Trip was not 'clear, unambiguous and unequivocal" to meet the standards as a legitimate, enforceable contract," he added.

It had been a response to something else altogether, according to the ruling.

"Here, Z-Trip's exclamation, 'Dope!' was in response to Phillip's query, 'Please have a look at the video from this past weekend and let me know if you approve,'" Engelmayer wrote. "Viewed in this context, Z-Trip's response of 'Dope!' plainly communicated that, in some sense, he 'approve[d]' of 'the video.' But such approval is quite distinct from conveying assent to a mutual exchange of promises or other consideration. And it certainly did not convey that Z-Trip had authority to approve, on behalf of the Beastie Boys, a free license to Monster to use the Beastie Boys' recordings and songs."

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