The practice of sampling has been the source of contention in the music industry for some time. On the one side there are those who want to be adequately compensated for their work and want to enforce the most strict copyright standards on it. On the other side are those who advocate making it easier to borrow and build on the works of others and relaxing copyright restrictions. Now the courts have had their final say on where one line should be drawn: the Supreme Court declined to hear the case of jazz musician James Newton, who had been arguing that the Beastie Boys infringed on his copyright. The rappers had properly licensed his recording, and nobody disputes that, but Newton wanted them also to pay for his "underlying composition." An appeals court dismissed his lawsuit, saying that the six-second sample of Newton's composition was not distinctive enough to be considered his work. Despite gaining the support of several musician groups, Newton and other artists should be somewhat encouraged by this outcome. If this situation serves as any sort of precedent, the rights holder will still get compensated for sampled recordings, while artists will get (at least just a little) more leeway to build on existing works and truly create something interesting. Forcing fellow artists to pay you for the right to use a succession of musical notes that have probably been heard and performed in various forms for centuries, is not the way to encourage musical innovation.
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