The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last week affirmed a summary judgment in favor of the Beastie Boys in a copyright infringement suit.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last week affirmed a summary judgment in favor of the Beastie Boys in a copyright infringement suit, Billboard Bulletin reports.
In 1992, the Beastie Boys got a license from ECM Records to sample a copyrighted sound recording from James W. Newton Jr.'s flute composition, "Choir." The group copied a six-second, three-note sequence and looped it throughout its song "Pass the Mic," featured on the 1992 Capitol album "Check Your Head."
Eight years later, Newton sued the Beastie Boys, alleging that the remix infringed the "heart" of his flute composition, and that the band should have obtained a license from him as the composer of the underlying work. The case, Newton v. Diamond, was originally filed in the central district of California.
In affirming the lower court's summary judgment, the appellate court on Nov. 4 held that there was no infringement because the use of the sample was minimal. "Newton is in a weak position to argue that the similarities between the works are substantial, or that an average audience would recognize the appropriation," the court held.
Other defendants in the suit included Capitol Records, Universal Polygram International Publishing, BMG Direct Marketing and Columbia House. "Check Your Head" has sold 2 million copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.
"We are relieved that this case is finally over," the Beastie Boys said in a statement. "We're sorry that it went on as long as it did despite our sincere efforts to do everything legally and ethically. Newton gave his label ECM permission to license his work, and they in turn gave permission to us. We obtained and paid for all necessary clearances for this sample. We dealt directly with ECM Records, the owner of the master recording, and lived up fully to the agreement we made with them. We sampled a performance, not a composition, and hopefully these two court decisions will make the distinction between the two clear, once and for all."