I came across an interesting article in Forbes the other day about Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys and a change he made to his will before death. Of course back in ’86 the Beastie Boys hit it BIG with the album Licensed to Ill which remains one of my top 5 favorite albums of all time; yes, I still call them albums. He wrote that his name was MCA and that he had a license to kill and that it was time to get ill. In any event, he was born and bred in Brooklyn of the USA and like a lime to a lemon he tried to write his own will… willl… willl.
His will (but not the trust the will pours over to) is a public record in the state of New York. It contained the following provision which is common for entertainers:
“Notwithstanding anything to the contrary, in no event may my image or name be used for advertising purposes.”
However, MCA, before signing the will, interlineated (added in) some extra words so that the will now reads as follows (his added handwritten provision is underlined):
“Notwithstanding anything to the contrary, in no event may my image or name or any music or any artistic property created by me be used for advertising purposes.”
It appears that Mr. Yauch may have inadvertently created a fight which could employ many lawyers to unwind. I always tell my clients not to write anything extra on their wills… and his lawyer likely told him the same. However, he also liked to put a pen to paper and write some def rhymes.
The problem gets into the difference between his public rights and his copyright rights. Mr. Yauch owned HIS publicity rights but his copyrights were owned by various entities including the Beastie Boys themselves (or a partnership by that name anyway).
Nobody knows exactly what he meant but my guess is the very publicly spiritual man probably didn’t want his likeness plastered on dozens of commercials and TV shows as so often happens (see Elvis or Michael Jackson). I have met with clients like this who just want their families to live a comfortable life on the millions he left and leave it at that. Keep things simple. However, he potentially cut off his family’s ability to have a voice in the use of his copyrights… and since he only owned a portion of the rights those songs will keep on playing.
Like a 12 inch single with an extended re-mix this song might play a while. I will post more information when I hear it.