Skills to Pay the Bills: Beasties Win Attorneys’ Fees in Copyright Case

The Beastie Boys won their motion for attorneys' fees based on their successful copyright infringement case against Monster Energy. However, the award was reduced, and they did not recover attorneys' fees under the Lanham Act for their successful trademark infringement case against Monster.

While acknowledging that an award was "consistent with, and would further, the purposes" of the Copyright Act, the court did a deep dive on the actual attorney billing records in the case and identified fees for which an award was not warranted.  The court revealed in its opinion that the Beastie Boys "paid their counsel more in fees (approximately $2.4 million) than was awarded by the jury...on the Copyright Act claims alone ($1.2 million)." Therefore, an award was important "to compensate the plaintiff and deter future infringements."

The court observed that in trial the case clearly had "great personal significance" to the Beasties, given the fact they maintain a strict prohibition against commercialization of their music, and based on the fact that Monster engaged in "crass misappropriation of the name of the recently deceased Yauch in its video promoting its energy drinks." However, the court noted that the firm representing the Beasties, Sheppard Mullin, relied on a partner-heavy approach to litigating the case when many aspects of preparation such as discovery could have been handled by associates, and that its review of Sheppard Mullin's bills suggested "the Beastie Boys opted to pay for, and received, the Cadillac Escalade, not the Honda Civic."

Ultimately, the Court ruled that an award to the Beastie Boys of 50% of the $1,335,698.28 in fees accrued for the copyright claims-$667,849.14 to be exact-was appropriate.

Photo "Beastieboys-sonar07" by Michael Morel - Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Comments are closed.