Copyright Infringement

Nicki Minaj Pays Tracy Chapman $450K in Copyright Suit

Nicki Minaj avoids the court trial by offering Tracy Chapman a cash settlement of $450,000 for using her track, “Baby Can I Hold You” without the singer-songwriter’s permission. Chapman accepted the offer. California federal court documents became public when Chapman accepted the offer, and because of this, the trial, scheduled for later in the year, will not proceed. In accepting the cash settlement, Chapman wins the copyright infringement case and avoids responsibility for the costs, had the jury found that the original claims weren’t worth the offered amount.

Chapman’s original infringement claim was in response to Minaj’s “Sorry” track, which is a derivative of the Chapman composition, and which ended up being leaked and broadcast on a radio show. According to court documents, Minaj’s representatives tried to license the composition, but Chapman refused. It is widely known that Chapman does not allow samples of her works to be used, and she was even on a “do not sample” list.

Had “Sorry” not leaked, this story may have had a different conclusion. U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips ruled in a summary judgment that Minaj that the use of the song during studio experimentation was “fair use” and did not constitute infringement. The judge stated that to call this infringement would “limit creativity and stifle innovation” in the music industry. However, a trial was still scheduled to look at the facts and assign responsibility for the leak and distribution.

Both sides agree that the $450,000 settlement is a reasonable amount to settle this copyright controversy. Chapman maintains that the lawsuit was a last resort to defend her work and seek protection for the creative expression and artistic control of songwriters and independent publishers.

Chapman was represented by John Gatti, a partner at the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.

The Hollywood Reporter – January 8, 2021 – Eriq Gardner

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