Yesterday, Nicki Minaj scored a big win, not only for herself but for Hip Hop when a judge ruled she did not commit copyright infringement when she sampled Tracy Chapman's "Baby Can I Hold You" for her Nas collab "Sorry."
The ruling protects the industry practice of developing a new song based on existing material and then seeking a license from the original artist prior to release. U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips ruled that Minaj’s experimentation with Chapman’s song constitutes “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.”
This lawsuit stems from a 2017 collab between Nicki Minaj and rap legend Nas called "Sorry." At the time, Nicki Minaj believed the track had sampled a song by Shelly Thunder but later found out it was, in fact, from Champman's "Baby Can I Hold You." Minaj attempted to get the sample cleared for the song to be included on her 2018 album "Queen." However, Chapman, who is on the no sample list, refused to clear the track. This resulted in the song not appearing on Minaj's "Queen" album. However, DJ Funk Flex did end up playing it on his show, which sparked this lawsuit. Chapman is accusing Nicki Minaj of giving the track to DJ Funk Flex, however, both deny the allegation. Interestingly, Nas is not being sued, considering he is on the song, and he is the one who brought the idea to Minaj.
While Nicki Minaj may have won the battle, the war still goes on. Nicki Minaj's win was for the culture, now she has to continue to fight for herself (some things never change). Chapman's lawyer, John Gatti, put out a statement expressing their disappointment with yesterday's ruling, but feel they will prevail once a jury hears their case alleging Nicki Minaj sent DJ Funk Flex the song to play on air.
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