In a bitter coincidence, hip-hop great Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys was hit by a copyright lawsuit on the same day he passed away from cancer last week at the age of 47.
The lawsuit, which names Yauch (aka MCA) and other members of the band, concerns short sound clips from two seminal Beastie Boys albums, Paul’s Boutique and Licensed to Ill. The two albums helped introduce millions of listeners to hip-hop, a style of music that mixes clips of external music and culture into a beat-heavy brew.
The plaintiff in last week’s lawsuit represents a band called Trouble Funk which claims the Beastie Boys illegally used samples from their work for songs like “Shadrach,” “Car Thief” and “Hold it Now Hit It.” (Thanks, Andy in the comments for correcting my earlier misidentification of the band).
At the time the albums were made, the Beastie Boys had a relatively easy time clearing the samples — (here’s a good Wired piece about how the process works). Since then, the process has become onerous, expensive and lawyer-heavy which has led some to suggest Paul’s Boutique would never have been made today.
After Yauch’s death, we called to honor him with better copyright laws that would make it easier to clear samples and allow musicians to use very short clips without fear of being sued.
TufAmerica’s lawsuit in many ways resembles what happens to fading tech companies like Yahoo which, rather than inventing something new, resort to suing instead.
The lawsuit was first reported by AllHipHop. Here’s a copy: