The Beastie Boys have called for the dismissal of a lawsuit charging that they illegally sampled material on their first two albums. The rappers deny there is any “substantial similarity” between the tracks on Licensed to Ill and Paul’s Boutique and the songs they sampled by the go-go band Trouble Funk.
TufAmerica, Trouble Funk’s label, filed its suit in May, one day before the death of Beastie Boy Adam Yauch. TufAmerica alleged copyright infringement, unjust enrichment and misappropriation, and asked for punitive damages and a permanent injunction on the sale of records containing Trouble Funk samples.
In the Beastie Boys’ response to the lawsuit, filed on Monday, they questioned the two-decade gap between their albums’ release and TufAmerica’s complaint. “Plaintiff is attempting to sidestep the Copyright Act’s three-year statute of limitations,” their lawyers wrote, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Although TufAmerica argued that the samples are “concealed … [to] the casual listener” and were only detectable “after conducting a careful audio analysis”, the hip-hop crew said this means their work is sufficiently different and they should be exempt from damages.
“Because Plaintiff admits that the casual observer cannot identify Plaintiff’s musical compositions and sound recordings … there can be no substantial similarity,” wrote the Beasties’ team. As the Hollywood Reporter points out, this is similar to a recent argument made by lawyers representing Madonna, who has also been accused of “hiding” a sample inside one of her songs. A portion of the Salsoul Orchestra’s Chicago Bus Stop (Ooh, I Love It), from 1976, is apparently buried in Madonna’s 1990 hit, Vogue.
Both cases are ongoing.