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Beasties Beat James Newton, Again

In the ongoing tug-of-war between avant-garde jazz flutist James Newton and sample-happy hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, it seems the Boys may have had the last laugh; a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the court’s original decision last week, again finding in favor of the Beastie Boys, citing that the Beastie Boys’ sampling from a 1981 Newton recording was fully legal and authorized.

The back story goes like this: The Beastie Boys sampled a six-and-a half second section of Newton’s composition “Choir” and used it in their song “Pass the Mic,” which appeared on their 1992 album Check Your Head. The sample, which is looped and repeats 40 times throughout “Pass the Mic,” operates as the song’s leading motif and came from Newton’s 1981 album Axum, on ECM Records. Though the Beasties Boys received permission from ECM to use the sample, paid for the privilege and credited Newton in Check Your Head‘s liner notes, Newton filed suit against the Beastie Boys in 2000, claiming his composition had been stolen because the sample was not cleared directly by himself or his publishing company, Janew Music.

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