Nicki Minaj will pay Tracy Chapman $450,000 to settle the copyright infringement claims over the tune “Sorry,” which sampled Chapman’s 1988 single “Baby Can I Hold You” without authorization.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, documents became public in California federal court on Thursday (Jan. 7) showing that Chapman accepted Minaj’s offer of judgment in the lawsuit on Dec. 30, 2020, and the case will not go to trial, which was set to take place on March 2.
Chapman filed the case in October 2018, after “Sorry,” a collaboration with Nas, was allegedly leaked to radio DJ Funkmaster Flex, and from there, the song ended up on the internet. “Sorry” did not appear on an album or as an official release.
“I am glad to have this matter resolved and grateful for this legal outcome which affirms that artists’ rights are protected by law and should be respected by other artists,” Chapman said in a statement. “I was asked in this situation numerous times for permission to use my song; in each instance, politely and in a timely manner, I unequivocally said no. Apparently Ms. Minaj chose not to hear and used my composition despite my clear and express intentions. This lawsuit was a last report — pursued in an effort to defend myself and my work and to seek protection for the creative enterprise and expression of songwriters and independent publishers like myself.”
THR reports that court papers reveal that Minaj and her reps sought a license to Chapman’s song. After Chapman refused, Minaj used the song while creating music in the studio, and “Sorry” was leaked, albeit intentionally, rather than officially released. U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips ruled that Minaj had a fair use right to use the song in the studio to enable musical experimentation, saying that “A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry.”
Chapman recently gave her first performance in five years, playing “Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution on a November 2020 episode of Late Night.