James W. Newton, Jr., is an accomplished avant-garde jazz composer and flutist. Newton wrote a composition for the song “Choir,” a piece for flute and voice that incorporated elements of African American gospel music. Newton owns the copyright to the composition “Choir.” The Beastie Boys, a rap and hip-hop group, used six seconds of Newton’s “Choir” composition in their song “Pass the Mic” without obtaining a license from Newton to do so. Newton sued the Beastie Boys for copyright infringement. The Beastie Boys defended, arguing that their use of six seconds of Newton’s song was de minimis and therefore fair use. Does the incorporation of a short segment of a copyrighted musical composition into a new musical recording constitute fair use, or is it copyright infringement? Explain your answer.
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