American singer and songwriter, Tracy Chapman, has won a $450,000 copyright infringement suit against her colleague, Nicki Minaj.
The copyright infringement trial which was over an unauthorised sample of a Tracy Chapman song in a Nicki Minaj track was averted as Minaj agreed to pay Chapman $450,000 to close the case in documents filed on Thursday in United States District Court.
The dispute arose as a result of Minaj interpolating Chapman’s 1988 song, Baby Can I Hold You, into her 2018 song, Sorry. After Chapman denied a request to approve the sample, as she reportedly does with all such requests, Papersix.com reports.
Although Minaj dropped the song from her album, Queen; in a wrinkle that made the case more complicated, the song, Sorry, leaked with Chapman’s voice on it, days after the album’s August 2018 release.
The person who leaked the record, DJ Funkmaster Flex, named Minaj as his source. He said, “Nicky gave me something and I put it out to the public”.
Chapman’s lawyers were prepared to argue that the fact that ‘Sorry’ never got an official commercial release did not really matter in the face of the widespread availability of the track despite Chapman’s explicit disapproval.
The lawsuit was filed some months after the song leaked in October 2018.
In a document drafted on December 17, 2020, less than three months before the case was set to go to trial, Minaj, also known in the legal filings as Onika Tanya Maraj, had her lawyers make a $450,000 offer, with all costs and attorney fees included in that amount.
Chapman’s attorneys said she ‘accepts and provides notice that she has accepted’ Minaj’s offer of judgment in a separate document dated December 30, 2020.
The filings in the central district of the United States District Court in California wraps up the dispute, which had been set for trial March 2, 2021.
The last action in the case had come in September 2020, when a U.S. District Court judge made a ruling in favour of Minaj that she was at least within her rights to have created the “Sorry” track in the studio with Nas before receiving clearance from Chapman.
“A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry,” Judge Virginia Phillips wrote then.
But that would have had little bearing on an ultimate decision over whether Minaj was liable for the track going public after her team repeatedly tried and failed to receive clearance from Chapman.