Composer Mike Batt has agreed to pay a six figure amount to the John Gage trust for his derivative cover of Gage's "4 33" (for 4 minutes, 33 seconds) song of silence.
Composer pays for piece of silence
Here's the full text of the article in case the link goes bad:
Composer pays for piece of silence
Monday, September 23, 2002 Posted: 1621 GMT
LONDON, England -- A bizarre legal battle over a minute's silence in a recorded song has ended with a six-figure out-of-court settlement.
British composer Mike Batt found himself the subject of a plagiarism action for including the song, "A One Minute Silence," on an album for his classical rock band The Planets.
He was accused of copying it from a work by the late American composer John Cage, whose 1952 composition "4'33"" was totally silent.
On Monday, Batt settled the matter out of court by paying an undisclosed six-figure sum to the John Cage Trust.
Batt, who is best known in the UK for his links with the children's television characters The Wombles, told the Press Association: "This has been, albeit a gentlemanly dispute, a most serious matter and I am pleased that Cage's publishers have finally been persuaded that their case was, to say the least, optimistic.
"We are, however, making this gesture of a payment to the John Cage Trust in recognition of my own personal respect for John Cage and in recognition of his brave and sometimes outrageous approach to artistic experimentation in music."
Batt credited "A One Minute Silence" to "Batt/Cage."
Before the start of the court case, Batt had said: "Has the world gone mad? I'm prepared to do time rather than pay out. We are talking as much as £100,000 in copyright.
"Mine is a much better silent piece. I have been able to say in one minute what Cage could only say in four minutes and 33 seconds."
Batt gave a cheque to Nicholas Riddle, managing director of Cage's publishers Peters Edition, on the steps of the High Court, in London.
Riddle said: "We feel that honour has been settled.
"We had been prepared to make our point more strongly on behalf of Mr Cage's estate, because we do feel that the concept of a silent piece -- particularly as it was credited by Mr Batt as being co-written by "Cage" -- is a valuable artistic concept in which there is a copyright.
"We are nevertheless very pleased to have reached agreement with Mr Batt over this dispute, and we accept his donation in good spirit."
"A One Minute Silence" has now been released as part of a double A-side single.
I love my boys, and this whole situation makes me just sick. Right now, there's no way for them to win. Newton says they didn't offer him enough money, and then says he would have never given them permission in the first place -- money or no.
This isn't encouraging for artists that try to take the time to track other artists down to ask their permission -- what if they say no?
It also sucks to find out your song is on a famous album -- and nobody told you or bothered to try to track you down (since Newton is a professor at a major university, I doubt it would have been that hard to find him).
It seems like we need compulsory licensing for samples, so people don't need permission, but can still get paid fairly.
At the same time, this ruling suggests that Newton didn't need to be notified or paid for the use of his work -- surely that's not a precedent worth supporting!
The Flute Case That Fell Apart
-- Ruling on Sampling Has Composers Rattled
by Teresa Wiltz for the Washington
Composers are nervously keeping an eye on the case,
wondering what kind of precedent it will set if Manella's
ruling is upheld...Licensing a sample is a two-part
process: Permission is needed from both the record
label and the composer. The Beastie Boys licensed
the sample from Newton's record label, Munich-based
ECM, but neither the company nor the group got
permission from Newton. Manella's ruling in effect
said that since the sample was a recording and not
a composition, his permission wasn't needed.
"The ruling in this case will have a chilling effect
on musically creative artists," says Richard Kessler,
executive director of the American Music Center,
a New York-based arts service organization with
more than 3,000 composers in its membership.
Kessler said his organization is considering
joining an amicus brief with other musical
organizations for the appeal.
As Kessler sees it, "the idea that the judge
would take a look at these six notes and
determine that they are not original and
didn't warrant protection, it's something
musical artists, composers will and should fear."
Here's the full text of the article in case the link goes bad:
The Flute Case That Fell Apart
Ruling on Sampling Has Composers Rattled
By Teresa Wiltz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 22, 2002; Page C01
This is how jazz flutist James Newton found out -- eight years after the
fact -- that he was on a popular rap recording: A student strolled into his
class and said hey, prof, I didn't know you performed with the Beastie Boys.
Newton wasn't happy. A six-second snippet of his song "Choir" was a featured
attraction in the 1992 Beastie Boys hit "Pass the Mic." He says that he's
never received any compensation for the band's use of the recording and that
the Beastie Boys never bothered to ask his permission.
Finding out that the song had made it onto a "Beavis & Butt-head" cartoon
only fueled his ire. Newton, a professor at California State University, Los
Angeles, says that if he'd been asked, he never would have granted his
permission. So in 2000 he sued the Beastie Boys, charging the group with
copyright infringement. And, to his surprise and rage in June, he learned
he'd lost the case.
In her ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Nora M. Manella said that Newton's
sequence was basically a "recording," for which Newton and his publisher had
already been compensated, as opposed to a "composition," and that it was
"unoriginal as a matter of law." (She also denied a motion filed by the
Beastie Boys seeking reimbursement from Newton for almost $500,000 in legal
fees.) Newton is appealing the decision, and has taken to the Internet in
search of support.
The case in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California
pits Newton, a critically acclaimed avant-garde jazz flutist and former
Guggenheim fellow, against the Beastie Boys, a rap group known for both its
innovation in sampling (the use of snippets of other artists' recordings)
and for its progressive politics.
Composers are nervously keeping an eye on the case, wondering what kind of
precedent it will set if Manella's ruling is upheld.
At issue are complicated questions of copyright law, and whether Newton's
permission was needed for the "Choir" sample. Licensing a sample is a
two-part process: Permission is needed from both the record label and the
composer. The Beastie Boys licensed the sample from Newton's record label,
Munich-based ECM, but neither the company nor the group got permission from
Newton. Manella's ruling in effect said that since the sample was a
recording and not a composition, his permission wasn't needed.
"The ruling in this case will have a chilling effect on musically creative
artists," says Richard Kessler, executive director of the American Music
Center, a New York-based arts service organization with more than 3,000
composers in its membership. Kessler said his organization is considering
joining an amicus brief with other musical organizations for the appeal.
As Kessler sees it, "the idea that the judge would take a look at these six
notes and determine that they are not original and didn't warrant
protection, it's something musical artists, composers will and should fear."
Says Billy Taylor, jazz pianist, composer and Kennedy Center fixture: "If I
create something, whether I create it in my head or on some electronic
machine, it's just as finite as if I write it on a sheet of paper. It
doesn't matter if it's not written down if it's something he created,
whether he whistled it or hummed it."
The sequence in question is a six-second sample of "Choir," a 1982 recording
during which Newton simultaneously sings notes while playing the flute using
an overblowing technique, creating a "multiphonic" composition. The segment,
which was inspired by Newton's Southern Baptist roots, opens "Pass the Mic,"
and then loops repeatedly throughout the piece. The Beastie Boys album
"Check Your Head," released in 1992, went multi-platinum. The Beastie Boys
continue to perform the song in concert, and it appears on a DVD released in
The Beastie Boys' attorney, Adam Streisand, did not return a phone call
requesting comment. In a prepared statement, Mike D of the Beastie Boys
said: "We have dealt with this entire matter legally and fairly from day
one. It's clear by the judge's rulings that she agreed as well. It's
unfortunate that Mr. Newton wouldn't reason with us earlier and that it had
to come to this."
Newton said that the Beastie Boys offered to compensate him for the use of
his material but that the figure was "insulting." Neither he nor his
attorney, Alan Korn, would comment on the amount of the offer. A
spokesperson for ECM said that the label tried to contact Newton, but the
flutist had moved and the company did not have a current telephone number.
The label mailed him a check, for a modest amount, the standard fee for
licensing agreements, but it was returned for lack of a forwarding address.
This isn't the first time the Beastie Boys were sued for copyright
infringement related to sampling, nor is it the first time that a rapper has
been sued for sampling. In a 1991 landmark ruling, Biz Markie lost a court
case for sampling Gilbert O'Sullivan's 1977 hit "Alone Again (Naturally)" in
his song "Alone Again." His record "I Need A Haircut" on which the single
appeared, was subsequently pulled from the shelves.
"For my music to be dispelled by the court in this fashion was a very
difficult pill for me to swallow," Newton said.
"It sounds racist to me," Taylor said. "Pure English. Here's a [judge] who's
saying if it's not written in the old European form that I may have heard
about from someone who studied Mozart," it's not a legitimate composition.
You might enjoy this very interesting account of the History of Tetris.
Here's an article for more backround about this situation, of which I just heard of today for the first time, and am not claiming to know anything about.
Nevertheless, I found the letter below (that was forwarded to me on a mailing list) pretty interesting:
To whom it may concern,
It seems like a real "Weird Nightmare" to be writing you this email. For the last two years I have been involved in a suit because the Beastie Boys sampled a part of my composition "Choir" and did not contact me for permission. They did not change in any way what they sampled from "Choir". It begins with the sampled six and a half seconds and loops in the song over forty times. "Pass the Mic'" has appeared in CD, MP3, LP, and DVD formats.
The law clearly states that to use someone else's music one must contact and receive permission from both the record company and the copyright owner. "Choir" was registered with the copyright office and ASCAP in 1978. My publishing company JANEW MUSIC controls 100% of the rights. Nevertheless the Beastie Boys only contacted and received permission from ECM Records and ignored me.
The case went up for summary judgement one month ago and Judge Nora Manella of US Federal Court ruled against me!!!!!!!!!!! She stated as a fact of law that my music was unoriginal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The liner notes of Axum begins with a quote from the New York Times that "James Newton is the most accomplished and original flutist now playing Jazz".The year that Axum was released (1982) was also the first year that I won the Down Beat International Critics Poll as the best jazz flutist. The judge must feel that her opinion is more significant than all of the experts in the field.
The six and a half second sample consists of three sung notes C,Db ,C and a held flute harmonic C2, as a result of the combination of voice, harmonic and a balanced distribution of each a series of shifting multiphonics are created. She ignored the multiphonics because they weren't written on the score and said that there are just three notes in the score which aren't protectable. If you go to the Beastie Boy's DVD of the piece "Pass the Mic" to signify the song their is only my flute sample and a drum beat . There is a spectrograph that moves wildly when my multiphonics are played. If there was only one pitch the movement would be minimal. She also consistently used European paradigms to judge my music. An aria from Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas" and Cole Porter's "Night and Day" were examples of what is protectable. "Choir" is about four black women singing in a church in rural Arkansas. This work is a modern approach to a spiritual. As you well know, one would be hard-pressed to find multiphonic fingerings in most jazz scores, even when multiphonics are used!!!! If I'm writing for a classical ensemble I'll write out the multiphonic fingerings because of how notation is used in that culture of music.
Spirituals come out of the oral tradition, and if they are notated they're in the most simplest form which is the way that I wrote out "Choir" On the same LP one can find "The Neser" which is influenced by Ravel and is a 8-minute work for flute quartet where everything is written out except a short alto flute cadenza. I certainly didn't become dumb when I dealt with my own culture in "Choir." The urgency of this letter is that after unjustly winning the case the Beastie Boys have filed a motion with the court for me to pay their legal fees of $492,000 after they stole my music. I have already spent a considerable amount of money for a creative musician and college professor. This would, of course, send me into bankrupcy, and I stand a chance of losing my home and all that I have worked for through the years. If you can spread the press release around to your colleagues in the European press, it will help the cause greatly. The more newspapers, magazines and journals that this is placed in will help. Please inform us of any press that appears so that we can use it in our legal endeavors. Also any of you that are heads of organizations or lawyers please contact my lawyer, Alan Korn (firstname.lastname@example.org), and he can give you the information of where to send Amicus letters.
This decision is a dangerous one that would affect jazz composers and other composers that choose to write in other ways. I have had plenty of training to write all of my scores in the most eurocentric Boulezian fashion but why should I be forced to to please a Judge who has very limited musical knowledge, certainly little of the Afro-American musical tradition. The strain on this trial and subsequent rulings have been immense. It has curtailed much of my artistic output because of the seriousness of this situation. For many years I have tried to give much as an artist and educator to the world community. This is a time when I have to now ask for your help. I have never sued anyone in all of my years on the planet up to this point. I am fighting for my rights and the abilty to express myself in my own and any other cultural perspective that I choose as an artist. Please spread this around as much as possible.
Yours in music and freedom,