A Brief Review of Important Matters: Beastie Boys Legal Fees, Amazon vs. the FAA, and Trump vs. Young

Hey folks, you may have noticed a lull in updates. I'm taking a brief sabbatical from the longer essays but I'll still be doing these weekly roundups until I return in July. Hopefully these will tide you over until then. Cheers!

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The remaining members of the Beastie Boys won a nearly $2 million verdict from Monster Energy when Monster used their songs in a commercial without their permission. As part of the verdict, Monster will have to pay the Boys' $668,000 legal fees, which fell short of the $2.4 million their attorney wanted.

First thing's first: why the hell is a company like Monster using copyrighted material in their advertisements without getting permission? Especially the music of a highly litigious group like the Beastie Boys? Those guys will sue you if you sneeze in their general direction. At best, this is recklessly negligent and at worst it's malicious dice-rolling. No good could possible come of that (and no good did).

Secondly, it appears that the judge approved legal fees far under what was requested because the Beastie Boys evidently opted for the "'Cadillac Escalade,' not the 'Honda Civic' of legal representation." Which is a hilarious way of saying "just because you hired the best doesn't mean you get to bleed your opponent dry." This is actually a thing these days: hiring top-of-the-line attorneys who charge an arm and a leg in order to stick it to your opponent, making them pay more just because they messed with you. So I'm glad to see this judge acting eminently reasonable.

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Amazon (among other large companies) is calling on Congress to limit restrictions on commercial drone flights so that it can continue to push forward its harebrained drone-delivery system, Amazon Prime Air. The FAA's current proposed drone rule still carries pretty hefty limitations and would all but decimate Amazon's desire to fill the skies with box-carrying robots.

The main dilemma that I can see is that the FAA wants to prevent drones from being flown in populated areas, which is the main hurdle facing Amazon and other like-minded companies (including film production companies). No matter how loose the FAA makes its regulation, I just can't see them caving on that issue. Additionally, this particular hearing will deal with "sense and avoid" technology that will allow Amazon's drones to fly without human operators. Amazon's main argument is the "stifling innovation" line which has apparently been successful in the past, but will that trump the FAA's mandate for keeping the skies safe? Especially if there's no person behind the drone? I doubt it, but you never know.

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Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President yesterday in a typically clownish fashion and used Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" as his entrance music. Neil Young, a notable grump, caught wind of this and told Trump to stop using his music. It's unclear if Young would be willing to sue over this, but if he did, he would probably lose. The Hollywood Reporter has a great breakdown as to why that is, but the short version is that no one would confuse Young's song being played at a rally with actual endorsement of the candidate (this would fall under a trademark infringement claim; Trump's team actually obtained a license from ASCAP to play the song at the rally, nixing any potential copyright claim).

There's another reason Trump could win even if he was legally wrong, which he doesn't appear to be. Trump is notoriously litigious and despite a huge discrepancy in his net worth (Forbes has his personal worth at roughly $4 billion while Trump says he's at $9 billion), he's still WAAAYYYYY richer than Neil Young and could just litigate the guy into a coma. 

Being rich has a lot of perks, but being able to win a court case even if you're in the wrong is atop that list. Thankfully, the guy has no chance of becoming president. 

Greg Kanaan

The [Legal] Artist, Boston, MA, USA