Tracy Chapman won her copyright infringement suit over Nicki Minaj, who will pay the singer-songwriter $450,000

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Tracy Chapman performs in 2009; Nicki Minaj attends the Met Gala in 2019. Brill/ullstein bild via Getty Images; ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images
  • Tracy Chapman has won a copyright infringement lawsuit against Nicki Minaj.
  • Chapman filed a lawsuit against Minaj in October 2018 over claims that the rapper’s song “Sorry” used the singer-songwriter’s 1988 track “Baby Can I Hold You” without permission.
  • Documents from California’s federal Central District Court state that Minaj and Chapman reached a settlement in December 2020. Minaj will pay Chapman $US450,000.
  • Chapman’s lawsuit states that in July 2018, Minaj’s team sent a formal request to Chapman, asking to “interpolate” – or re-record the lyrics and melody – of “Baby Can I Hold You.”
  • Chapman’s team denied Minaj’s request, but Chapman believes that the rapper used “Baby Can I Hold You” in her song prior to sending the request, according to the lawsuit.
  • “Sorry” was never released officially but was reportedly leaked by a DJ on the New York City radio station Hot 97.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman has won a copyright infringement lawsuit against rapper Nicki Minaj, claiming the rapper used one of her songs without permission.

Documents made public on Thursday from California’s federal Central District Court viewed by Insider state that the parties reached a settlement in December 2020. Minaj will pay Chapman $US450,000 as part of her judgment in the case.

Chapman initially filed the lawsuit against Minaj in October 2018. Chapman claimed that the rapper’s song, “Sorry,” a collaboration with Nas, included a sample of the singer-songwriter’s 1988 track “Baby Can I Hold You” and was taken without permission.

Chapman’s lawsuit states that in July 2018, Minaj’s team sent a formal request to Chapman, asking if the rapper could “interpolate” — or make a cover of the lyrics and melody — of “Baby Can I Hold You,” according to NPR. Chapman denied that request, according to the lawsuit, but believed that Minaj had already recorded “Sorry” and included “Baby Can I Hold You” without permission.

Minaj never released “Sorry” on an album or as a single.

According to a court document viewed by Insider, Chapman alleged in her initial complaint that Minaj’s “infringing work” was leaked by a well-known DJ, Funkmaster Flex, on a New York City radio station, Hot 97.


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In the response document to Chapman’s original complaint, Minaj claimed that her use of “Baby Can I Hold You” for her song “Sorry” was protected under fair use. The fair use doctrine allows the use of copyright-protected work without permission from the creator for purposes like education, criticism, news reporting, and more.

Peter W. Ross, a lawyer for Minaj, told the New York Times: “We settled for one reason only. It would have cost us more to go to trial.”

Chapman told the Times in a statement that she believes the outcome of the case “affirms that artists’ rights are protected by law and should be respected by other artists.”

“As a songwriter and an independent publisher I have been known to be protective of my work,” the artist said. “I have never authorised the use of my songs for samples or requested a sample. This lawsuit was a last resort.”

In recent years, musicians have accused each other of plagiarism or copyright infringement over songs that allegedly included samples or lyrics without permission. Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, The Weeknd, and others have been accused of ripping off others’ music.

Legal representatives for Chapman and Minaj, respectively, did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.