Rapper Nicki Minaj will pay singer Tracy Chapman $450,000 in order to settle a copyright dispute.
Chapman had sued Minaj in 2018 for allegedly using portions of her hit 1988 track “Baby, can I hold you tonight” in the rapper’s song “Sorry”.
The song was not officially released, but a leaked version made its way to radio DJ Funkmaster Flex and later became viral online. Chapman accused Minaj of sharing the song with Flex, although both have denied it, reports bbc.com.
Minaj wrote “Sorry” with fellow rapper Nas while recording her fourth album “Queen” in 2018. It is based on a sample of the dancehall track “Sorry” by Jamaican artiste Shelly Thunder, which in turn was based on “Baby, can I hold you tonight”.
Minaj and her record label asked for permission to use Chapman’s composition, but the singer repeatedly refused.
The singer’s lawyer said she has a blanket policy against granting such permission. Minaj was also said to have been informed that Chapman was on an unofficial “do not sample” list.
In an earlier judgement, US District Judge Virginia A Phillips said that Minaj’s experimentation with Chapman’s song in the studio constituted “fair use”.
The rapper’s lawyers had argued that artistes need freedom to sample music while writing and recording, without worrying about being sued once they approach the rights-holder for a licence.
Judge Phillips said there was “no evidence” that Minaj’s song “usurps any potential market for Chapman” and her original song. However, the judge set up a trial to find out how “Sorry” got leaked and distributed, and whether that constituted copyright infringement.
That trial will not happen since Chapman has accepted Minaj’s offer. The settlement includes Chapman’s costs and legal fees to date, according to documents released by California Central District Court.