Before you think of this as a blatantly insensitive act of legal pettiness, well, it only kind of is. At least Tuf America, the label representing Washington, D.C. go-go band Trouble Funk, filed their lawsuit a day before the untimely death of MCA a.k.a. Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch. Aside from that, it’s difficult for me to think of this as anything other than a superfluous example of our (meaning the United States’) lawsuit-prone culture. Falling on financially hard times as a musician? Why, just sue somebody for copyright infringement! Hey… is that my song playing on the radio in the background of this 15 year-old girl’s YouTube video!? Ohhhhhh no you don’t. I’ll give you something to vlog about…
Here are the details of the lawsuit, which was filed last Friday in New York federal court: Tuf America claims that the Trouble Funk songs “Drop the Bomb” and “Say What,” both issued in 1982, were repeatedly sampled by the Beastie Boys in the late 80s, on their albums Licensed to Ill and Paul’s Boutique. They allege that the tracks, “Car Thief,” “Hold It Now Hit It,” and “The New Style” all illegally use portions of “Drop The Bomb,” while “Shadrach” supposedly borrows in an unlawful manner from “Say What.”
In an attempt to overcome the five-year statute of limitations on copyright infringement, The Guardian reports that Tuf America is claiming that the Beastie Boys knowingly concealed the incorporation of Trouble Funk’s music by never declaring that the samples had been used, and apparently, by using some sort of audio wizardry. “Only after conducting a careful audio analysis of Shadrach,” Tuf America wrote, “[were we] able to determine that Shadrach incorporates the Say What sample.” I mean, so what if all of the samples in question are clearly indicated on the website, Who Sampled, and probably have been for some time? Just how sure can we be that Mike D didn’t sabotage their internet as well?
In sum, Tuf America alleges copyright infringement, unjust enrichment, and misappropriation. They’re also seeking a permanent injunction forbidding the sale of any Beastie Boys recording containing the samples. I look into my crystal ball and… is that inevitable failure I see?