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Newton v. Diamond - Composer loses Sampling Lawsuit to the Beastie Boys

Court Won't Review Beastie Boys Lawsuit By Associated Press

June 13, 2005, 4:06 PM EDT

WASHINGTON -- The Beastie Boys might have to fight for their right to party, but they won't have to defend themselves against claims they stole part of a jazz flutist's recording.

Without comment Monday, the Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling against jazz artist James W. Newton. Newton contended that the punk rappers' 1992 song "Pass the Mic" included a sample from his musical composition "Choir" without his full permission.

The Beastie Boys paid a licensing fee for the six-second, three-note segment of Newton's work but failed to pay an additional fee to license the underlying composition.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to dismiss Newton's lawsuit alleging copyright infringement. The appeals court reasoned that the short segment in "Pass the Mic" was not distinctive enough to be considered Newton's work.

Several members and representatives of the jazz and independent artists community -- including the American Composers Forum, the Electronic Music Foundation and Meet the Composer -- had filed a joint friend-of-the-court brief in support of Newton.

They urged the Supreme Court to clarify the scope of copyright law, given the growing practice of digital sampling, or recording a portion of a previously existing song, they say increasingly infringes on their ownership rights.

The Beastie Boys burst onto the national music scene in 1986 with their No. 1 album "License to Ill," which featured the party anthem "Fight for Your Right (to Party)."

The case is Newton v. Diamond, 04-1219.

Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.

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