Nicki Minaj has won a victory in her legal battle with Tracy Chapman after a judge ruled the rapper did not commit copyright infringement.
In October 2018, the ‘Fast Car’ hitmaker filed a lawsuit against the 37-year-old star after claiming her track ‘Sorry’ interpolated her 1988 single ‘Baby Can I Hold You’ without her permission.
Nicki denied infringing on the copyright for the song, despite having previously announced that she was seeking permission from Tracy to use the sample.
And now, the court has ruled in Nicki’s favour.
Variety reports that US district judge Virginia A. Phillips agreed with Nicki that the interpolation of the track was “fair use”.
Phillips said: “Artists usually experiment with works before seeking licenses from rights holders and rights holders typically ask to see a proposed work before approving a license.
“A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry.”
The ‘Anaconda’ hitmaker had claimed in her documents that whilst “she recorded a musical interpolation that incorporated music and lyrics from the Composition,” the use of the sample is protected by the doctrine of fair use.
Nicki also claimed Tracy had “not properly registered her claim to the copyright in the Composition,” adding that the 56-year-old singer “is not the owner of the copyright in issue and therefore lacks standing to bring the claims alleged in the Complaint.”
‘Sorry’ was meant to appear on Nicki’s fourth studio album ‘Queen’ which was released in August 2018 – but remained unreleased until it was leaked to New York DJ Funkmaster Flex, and subsequently played on Hot 97 radio, leading Tracy to file the lawsuit seeking damages, as well as an order to prevent Nicki from releasing the song.
In her documents, Nicki admitted she made “several requests for permission” to license the song, all of which were denied.
The papers read: “Defendant admits that Sorry incorporates music and lyrics from the Composition. Defendant admits that she made a recording of Sorry without first seeking authorisation to do so.”
After Funkmaster Flex played a copy of the ‘Queen’ album Nicki originally intended to release – which included ‘Sorry’ – shortly before the release of the final product, the ‘Good Form’ hitmaker seemed to suggest on social media that Tracy had blocked her from using the sample.
In a now-deleted tweet, she simply wrote: “Sis said no”.
Although the court sided with Nicki, a jury will still need to hear if the fact she gave Funkmaster Flex the song is copyright infringement.
The song ‘Baby Can I Hold You’ is one of the most covered songs in the world. The hit song has been covered by various artists over the years, from the likes of Jamaican Shelly Thunder, Irish Boyband Boyzone, Irish singer Ronan Keating, American RnB singer Andrea Martin, as well as Jamaican singers Sanchez and Further Notice.