Adam Yauch Sued Over Beastie Boys Sampling the Day Before He Died
More than two decades after the Beastie Boys albums' "Licensed to
Ill" and "Paul's Boutique" came out, the group and its music publishers
are hit with a lawsuit over alleged unauthorized use of copyrighted
Talk about ill timing: Just one day before Adam Yauch died, he and other members of the Beastie Boys were sued for illegally samping music.
The claims are made in a federal lawsuit filed in New York federal
court by TufAmerica, which says it is the exclusive administrator of the
recordings "Say What" and "Drop the Bomb," performed by the group Trouble Funk.
On May 3rd, TufAmerica dropped a bomb of trouble on the three
Beasties along with Universal Music, Brooklyn Dust Music, and Capitol
Records in allegations that copyrighted recordings were illicitly used
on the 1986 album License to Ill and the 1989 album Paul's Boutique.
It's unlikely that Yauch, aka MCA, was ever served papers in this
case before dying, and yet the case still represents a bit of curious
The sound recordings were created more than 20 years ago, which
figures to represent a coming battle over whether the statute of
limitiations had passed on the plaintiff's claims.
TufAmerica says it was never disclosed to them that the sample had
been used by the Beastie Boys, and that the "defendants purposely
concealed the integration" of the samples.
The lawsuit could also represent a battle over whether the Beastie
Boys work made transformative fair use of the plaintiffs' copyrights, or
represented de minimis infringement, if they indeed used them.
According to the complaint, "The manner in which the Say What Sample
was incorporated as a part of the words and music that make up the
Shadrach recording effectively concealed to the casual listener the fact
that the Say What Sample was part of Shadrach."
"Shadrach" was one of the songs on Paul's Boutique, an album produced by the Dust Brothers and celebrated for its artful mix of some 300 samples. In fact, upon Yauch's passing, some have commented that there would never be another album like it thanks to more vigorous copyright enforcement since the album first came out.
Perhaps copyright law isn't the only thing prompting lawsuits in this
day and age. Advances in investigative technology seem to matter as
well. The lawsuit continues:
"Only after conducting a careful audio analysis of
Shadrach that included isolating the suspected portion of the recording
and comparing it with various parts of Say What was TufAmerica able to
determine that Shadrach incorporates the Say What Sample."
Capitol Records and the Beastie Boys re-released Paul's Boutique in "remixed and remastered" form in 2009.
In addition to "Shadrach," the plaintiffs say that the Paul's Boutique
album also featured an unauthorized "Drop the Bomb" sample on the track
"Car Thief" and that the "Drop the Bomb" sample was also used on the Licensed to Ill songs "Hold It Now Hit It" and "The New Style."
TufAmerica is suing for copyright infringement, unjust enrichment,
and misappropriation. The plaintiff wants a permanent injunction enjoing
the defendants from continuing to infringe the samples, plus punitive