Wednesday , September 23 2020

Herman on Beasties

MSNBC’s Jan Herman is an excellent reporter. He was outraged by the Beastie Boys’ sampling case, which, as a sampler, I am of two minds upon. But being an excellent reporter, he followed up with the Beasties and received this statement from the group:

    “For the last year,” the statement begins, “we’ve been involved in a difficult legal battle with James Newton, a jazz musician and composer whose work was included as one of several samples in our song ‘Pass the Mic’. … we have no interest in taking advantage of anyone — least of all other musicians — and we made sure we had cleared the sample in question some 10 years ago. The sample is a flute sound — six seconds from Newton’s song ‘Choir’ — which runs through the background of ‘Pass the Mic’ buried under our own live instrumentation as well as many other samples. …
    “We cleared the recording but did not clear the composition because what we used is three notes and three notes do not constitute a composition. If one could copyright the basic building blocks of music or grammar then there would be no room for making new compositions or books. …
    “As an aside, we slowed the sample down which changed the notes in question. So the notes that are in our song are not even the notes that are in Newton’s recording or composition. This could be compared to paraphrasing.
    “Newton is now appealing his case to a higher court to try to get the decision overturned. If he succeeds in his efforts it will be a huge blow to forms of music that involve not only sampling, but all musical quotation. …
    “Furthermore, it is our opinion that Mr. Newton’s lawyers should be responsible for covering our legal fees, not Mr. Newton himself. If the judge had granted our motion they, and not Mr. Newton would have paid. In the UK when people are unjustly sued the claimant’s lawyers are usually responsible for the defendant’s legal fees. We wish that were the case in the US as well, because people would think more carefully before throwing such frivolous lawsuits around.
    “Beastie Boys”

I believe I agree with the judges decision on the case, but I would hardly call the lawsuit “frivolous,” nor do I think it appropriate that Newton be stuck covering the Beasties’ legal bill. Show some compassion, Boys.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: [email protected],, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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