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Beastie Boys Win Sampling Case


— November 4, 2003

The Beastie Boys’ 1992 song “Pass the Mic” uses a six-second sample of the jazz composition “Choir” by James W. Newton. The Beastie Boys had a valid license from Newton’s record company to sample the particular recorded performance, but did not have a license from Newton to use the copyrighted composition. Newton sued for infringement. The district court granted summary judgment for the Beastie Boys, and the Ninth Circuit today affirmed on the ground that the use of the composition was de minimis. Judge Graber dissents, stating that the issue should be decided by a jury. The court’s opinion makes an interesting read.


The Beastie Boys’ 1992 song “Pass the Mic” uses a six-second sample of the jazz composition “Choir” by James W. Newton. The Beastie Boys had a valid license from Newton’s record company to sample the particular recorded performance, but did not have a license from Newton to use the copyrighted composition. Newton sued for infringement. The district court granted summary judgment for the Beastie Boys, and the Ninth Circuit today affirmed on the ground that the use of the composition was de minimis. Judge Graber dissents, stating that the issue should be decided by a jury. The court’s opinion makes an interesting read.

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