Nicki Minaj Didn’t Commit Copyright Infringement Against Tracy Chapman Song, Judge Rules

Nicki Minaj Didn’t Commit Copyright Infringement Against Tracy Chapman Song, Judge Rules

A judge has sided with Nicki Minaj in her ongoing lawsuit with singer/songwriter Tracy Chapman. 

Judge Virginia A. Phillips ruled on Thursday (Sept. 17th), that Nicki Minaj didn’t commit copyright infringement for her song “Sorry,” which is based on Tracy Chapman’s “Baby Can I Hold You.”

While Nicki Minaj’s song wasn’t officially be released, Tracy Chapman filed a lawsuit back in 2018 and said she never gave Nicki Minaj, whose real name is Onika Maraj, permission to use the song. She said Nicki Minaj’s team asked multiple times to use the song, but was denied.

Tracy Chapman’s lawyer, John Gatti, previously argued:

“The facts are undisputed. Ms. Maraj violated Ms. Chapman’s copyright by creating an illegal derivative work and distributing that work. Moreover, these actions were indisputably willful. Ms. Maraj had knowledge of the illegality of her actions and proceeded…”

Still, Judge Phillips pointed to the fair-use policy when ruling in favor of the rapper.

The judge wrote:

“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 song was initially for Nicki Minaj’s album Queen that was released on Aug. 10, 2018. While Nicki Minaj never released it herself, radio personality Funkmaster Flex played it on the radio in August 2018, so now the judge has to decide if the radio play was copyright infringement. Nicki Minaj is accused of working with Funkmaster Flex to get the song on the radio. Funkmaster Flex teased the song, which featured rapper Nas, on social media.

What do you think of the judge’s decision? Comment and let us know.

Authored by: Char Patterson