How A Million-Dollar Lawsuit Hinged On Defining The Word ‘Dope!’

“Hands down the f—king dopest dope I’ve ever smoked.” —Saul, “Pineapple Express” (2008)

In A Nutshell

When Beastie Boys singer Adam “MCA” Yauch died in 2012, he left behind a very specific clause in his will. None of the group’s music was to be used to advertise anything. Ever. So you can imagine the group’s confusion when Monster Energy posted a video overlaid with Beastie Boys songs only a few days after his death. The resulting multimillion-dollar lawsuit made headlines around the world, and not just for its famous plaintiffs. As part of the settlement, the court was forced to legally define what the exclamation “Dope!” meant.

The Whole Bushel

When DJ Z-Trip heard that Beastie Boys singer Adam “MCA” Yauch had died in May 2012, he was apparently deeply affected. Only a few days later, the DJ played a long set at the Monster Energy–sponsored festival Ruckus in the Rockies using nothing but Beastie Boys songs. Impressed by his tribute, officials at Monster decided to use Z-Trip’s set to soundtrack their own memorial video for Yauch. After assembling a rough cut, they sent a link to the DJ, asking if he approved.

Z-Trip responded with one word. The exclamation: “Dope!”

It was a reply which would ultimately lead to a multimillion-dollar lawsuit. Taking Z-Trip’s response as approval, Monster released their video publicly. A montage of extreme sports set to Beastie Boys songs from Z-Trip’s set, it ended with the words “RIP MCA” in big, green, Monster-style lettering. The surviving members of the Beastie Boys took one look at this tribute/promo and decided to sue Monster’s ass off.

The trouble was Yauch’s dying wish had been that no Beastie Boys song ever be used to advertise anything. He’d even written a legally binding stipulation into his will. To his former bandmates Ad-Rock and Mike D, Monster’s new video looked less like a respectful tribute, and more like an advert for Monster Energy that managed to crap all over Yauch’s wishes. So, along with Yauch’s widow, they took the drinks giant to court.

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Hilariously, the resultant case hinged upon being able to legally define what Z-Trip’s exclamation of “Dope!” meant. Monster argued that it was a clear sign of approval for their video, and amounted to consent to use the music. The Beastie Boys argued that this was unclear, and that Z-Trip wasn’t legally able to give consent about using their music anyway. Defining the term became the linchpin of the case, taking up more jury time than any other aspect.

Thanks to these deliberations, we now have a legal precedent for defining the word “Dope!” in this context. For those of you that are interested, the court’s decision ultimately read:

“In proper context, the word ‘Dope!’ could certainly be taken as an expression, albeit unorthodox, of approval and acceptance of another’s antecedent offer. [. . .] But such approval is quite distinct from conveying assent to a mutual exchange of promises or other consideration. And it certainly did not convey that Z-Trip had authority to approve, on behalf of the Beastie Boys, a free license to Monster to use the Beastie Boys’ recordings and songs.”

In other words, Z-Trip’s response didn’t amount to anything beyond his personal enjoyment of the video. As a result of this judgment, Monster lost the case and were forced to pay the Beastie Boys $1.7 million. When asked by Rolling Stone to give his opinion on the court’s verdict, DJ Z-Trip was able to sum up his feelings succinctly:

“Dope!” was his only reply.

Show Me The Proof

Featured photo credit: Masao Nakagami
Rolling Stone: Beastie Boys Win $1.7 Million in Monster Energy Copyright Lawsuit
Mic: The Beastie Boys’ Fight With Monster Energy Is What Artistic Integrity Looks Like

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