Judge Throws Out TufAmerica Copyright Lawsuit Against Beastie Boys
Lately, the Beastie Boys have been on the suing end of copyright cases addressing the unlicensed use of their songs in advertisements. However, today (March 25), the trio -- Michael “Mike D” Diamond, Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz and the late Adam “MCA” Yauch -- have come out on top of a lawsuit filed by record label TufAmerica, which accused the rappers of using an unauthorized sampling on their 1989 sophomore album, Paul’s Boutique.
The lawsuit asserted that the Beastie Boys used unlicensed samples from D.C. outfit Trouble Funk’s “Say What” and “Let’s Get Small” on the Beastie's songs, “Shadrach” and “Hold It Now Hit It,” respectively.
New York Judge Alison Nathan decided that TufAmerica never acquired the exclusive license to Trouble Funk’s work needed to make its case against the Beastie Boys. Such a license would require TufAmerica to strike deals with Trouble Funk's Robert Reed, Tony Fisher and James Avery. Instead, the label acquired copyright deals with only Reed and Fisher in 1999. TufAmerica did make a deal with Avery in 2012, but Judge Nathan found that it only allowed for the label’s right to sue rather than exclusive copyright licensing.
“Put aside the issue of whether the 2012 Agreement and 1999 Agreements can be read together, the 2012 Agreement conveys nothing more than the bare right to sue,” Judge Nathan wrote (via Billboard). “And it has long been the rule that ‘[w]here… an agreement transfers nothing more than the bare right to sue… [it] cannot be the basis for standing under the Copyright Act.”