Alan Korn on Thu, 18 May 2000 13:11:40 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Beastie Boys Lawsuit - Press Release


Beastie Boys Sued for Copyright Infringement Over Digital

May 17, 2000

On May 9, 2000, award winning jazz and classical flutist and composer,
James Newton filed suit in U.S. District Court, Central District of
California, alleging copyright infringement by the Beastie Boys, their
producer, record label and publishing company over the unauthorized
sampling of Newton's solo flute composition Choir, from the 1982 ECM album
"Axum." In his suit, Mr. Newton charges that the Beastie Boys used his
composition and unique musical style as the principal backdrop of their
1992 hit single Pass the Mic, and on numerous remixes, including Pass the
Mic (Pt. 2, Skills to Pay the Bills) and Dub the Mic. The song Pass the
Mic was featured on "Check Your Head," the best-selling Beastie Boys' CD
that was recently certified double platinum by the RIAA. This hit song has
been a staple of Beastie Boys' live performances, has appeared in music
videos and films, and was recently included on the Beastie Boys recent
anthology release "The Sounds of Science." 

Although the Beastie Boys acknowledge using Newton's solo flute
composition in liner notes to "Check Your Head," the band only licensed
the sound recording from the record label, and failed to contact Newton or
ask permission to use his composition. According to attorney Alan Korn,
who filed the complaint on behalf of James Newton, "It is standard music
industry custom to obtain two licenses when a musical sample is used a
license to use the sound recording and a license to use the underlying
musical composition. This was particularly warranted here, since the
Beastie Boys sampled six-seconds of James Newton's Choir and looped this
sample over 40 times throughout their song. It is inconceivable that the
Beastie Boys, or their record label and publisher, were unaware of the
need to contact Mr.  Newton to obtain a sample license."

In addition to alleging copyright infringement, Mr. Newton's suit charges
that the unauthorized use of his unique and distinctive solo flute style
constitutes false designation of origin under [sec.?] 43 of the Lanham
Act. According to Mr. Newton, "the signature sound I have developed on the
flute is nowhere more apparent than on Choir, which makes prominent use of
my distinctive multiphonic and vocalization technique."

Mr. Newton's work has been extensively profiled in publications such as
the Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, Ed., and the book Mobius Music: The
European & Afro-American Flute Traditions by Daniel Clemence Fawcett,
and he has been the consecutive winner of Downbeat Magazine's
International Critics and Reader's Poll for Outstanding Flutist for almost
two decades. Currently, he is a Senior Professor of Music at University of
California Irvine and California State University, Los Angeles, as well as
the Artistic Director of the Luckman Fine Arts Complex.  

For more information, contact Alan Korn ( at 415.362.5700,
or Joe Mathis ( at 310.814.2228.

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