The found that she did not commit copyright infringement when she created a song based on Tracy Chapman’s “Baby Can I Hold You.” Minaj says she thought the song originally belong to Shelly Thunder, who released a reggae version of Chapman’s 1988 song.
U.S. district judge Virginia A. Phillips ruled that Minaj’s experimentation with Chapman’s song falls under “fair use” and is not copyright infringement.
“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,” the judge wrote. “A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry.”
Minaj’s “Sorry” leaked up online in August 2018 after Funkmaster Flex played the track on the radio. Minaj had publicly asked Chapman to clear a sample to appear on her album Queen ahead of the premiere. Chapman did not want the rapper to use her song.
Despite the win, the legal battle is not over for Minaj or Chapman. The court now must decide whether Minaj infringed upon Chapman’s rights by distributing the song over the radio.
In her suit, Chapman alleges that because Flex was permitted by Minaj’s team to play the song, it was then widely distributed without Chapman’s consent. She sued the star for damages and wants to ban Minaj from further releasing the song.