Nicki Minaj Pays Tracy Chapman $450,000 in Copyright Dispute

By Ben Sisario, NY Times – click here for the original article.

For months, the entertainment industry’s legal calendar had an intriguing item on the horizon: a copyright trial pitting Tracy Chapman, the singer-songwriter, against the rapper Nicki Minaj.

But that trial is not to be. Late last month, the parties agreed to a judgment of copyright infringement against Minaj, and a payment of $450,000 to Chapman, according to documents made public in federal court in California, where the case was being adjudicated.

Chapman sued Minaj for copyright infringement in late 2018 over a song called “Sorry,” which borrowed heavily from Chapman’s “Baby Can I Hold You,” released in 1988. The aspect of the copyright dispute that drew the attention of legal scholars and entertainment litigators was that Minaj’s song, which she recorded with the rapper Nas, was never officially released, although it had been played on the radio by Funkmaster Flex, a celebrity D.J. on the New York radio station Hot 97.

Chapman accused Minaj of using “Baby Can I Hold You” without permission, which she said Minaj had asked for but was denied. Yet Minaj argued that her creation of “Sorry,” even without a license from Chapman, was protected by the doctrine of “fair use” — an exception to copyright law that lets creators borrow copyrighted material under certain conditions.

Their copyright dispute raised questions for musicians and the companies behind them:

Can artists be held liable for copyright infringement for works in progress?
Do artists need permission even to experiment in the studio?
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