The Beastie Boys have called for the dismissal of a lawsuit which alleged that they illegally sampled material on their first two albums, License To Ill and Paul’s Boutique, denying any tangible similarity between their own songs and those they sampled by the go-go band Trouble Funk.
The lawsuit was filed by Trouble Funk’s label TufAmerica back in May, one day before group member Adam Yauch’s death, with the plaintiffs alleging that the Beastie Boys never had sufficient authorization to use the copyrighted samples on their two hit albums, and were thus guilty of copyright infringement, unjust enrichment and appropriation.
Only this week have we heard a rebuttal from the iconic NYC rap group, who on Monday filed a response in which they questioned the 20-year gap between the release of their albums and the plaintiffs’ complaint. According to the Hollywood Reporter, their legal representatives are quoted as saying, “Plaintiff is attempting to sidestep the Copyright Act’s three-year statute of limitations and the defenses of laches and estoppel in light of its decades-long delay in taking any action.”
Whilst TufAmerica might argue that the samples were “effectively concealed” from the average listener, the Beastie Boys would themselves use this to argue that they are exempt from damages, as it shows that the tracks in question: “Shadrack,” “Car Thief,” “Hold It Now Hit It” and “The New Style” are sufficiently different from Trouble Funk’s recordings. In the words of their own legal representation, “because Plaintiff admits that the casual observer cannot identify Plaintiff’s musical compositions and sound recordings… there can be no substantial similarity.”
The implication, one that feeds into debates about sampling in music more widely, is that record labels are using new technology to trace sample sources that previously went undetected, using what they find to boost revenues with lawsuits such as this one.
The case continues.