A judgment has been made in Nicki Minaj and Tracy Chapman’s copyright dispute that began in 2018 over Minaj’s sampling of Chapman’s 1988 song “Baby Can I Hold You” in her leaked track “Sorry.” According to documents filed in a California federal court this week and viewed by Pitchfork, Chapman and her team have accepted a $450,000 offer of judgment that Minaj and her team tendered in December. The sum includes all costs and attorney fees related to the case.
An attorney for Nicki Minaj stated: “We settled for one reason only. It would have cost us more to go to trial.”
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. 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. As a songwriter and an independent publisher, I have been known to be protective of my work. I have never authorized the use of my songs for samples or requested a sample. This lawsuit was a last resort—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.
Chapman’s lawyer John Gatti added, “I respect Tracy’s principles and appreciate her successful efforts to protect artists’ rights. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome and for the statement this makes on behalf of Tracy and indeed, all artists’ rights.”
Minaj had previously denied that “Sorry” infringed upon “Baby Can I Hold You,” a claim that she formalized in court documents filed in February 2019. She did, however, tweet about not being granted sample clearance from Chapman. In September 2020, Minaj was handed a small victory in the case when Judge Virginia A. Phillips said that the rapper did not commit copyright infringement when she wrote and recorded “Sorry.”
The song became public in the summer of 2018 when Funkmaster Flex leaked the track online, although it was later removed from his website. Chapman sued for copyright infringement on the basis that “Sorry” had used her and directly lifted Chapman’s original lyrics.
Revisit “Why Tracy Chapman Would Probably Win Her Lawsuit Against Nicki Minaj” on the Pitch.