2021 is turning out to be an interesting year with recent reports coming in about how Nicki Minaj lost $450,000 to Tracy Chapman due to a copyright suit claim regarding a certain sample of a song.
Nick Minaj was really hoping that she could sample Tracy Chapman on her last album but in 2018, when the rapper was making her album Queen, she reached out to Chapman seeking approval to sample the singer’s “Baby Can I Hold You.”
In response to Minaj’s request, Chapman refused, and the Queen album was released without “Sorry,” the track containing the sample. However, the track was leaked anyway, and now, as a result, Minaj has agreed to pay Chapman $450,000 (UGX 1,668,956,850), according to reports by The Hollywood Reporter.
After the song got leaked, Chapman filed a copyright lawsuit in October 2018, a few months after the release of Nick Minja’s Queen album. Despite the ‘Sorry’ song not being included on the album, it was unofficially leaked to popular New York radio DJ Funkmaster Flex (allegedly by Minaj herself) and Chapman sued.
Minaj first made the argument that a ruling for Chapman, in this case, would infringe on artists’ right to experiment in the studio. This argument was upheld by U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips in a summary judgement, who agreed that creating the song was fair use of copyright but then set up a trail to explore who was culpable for leaking the song to the public after the studio experimentation.
However, Minaj claimed that the person who had leaked the audio was a mystery, and suggested it may have been the rapper Nas himself who had been also featured on the song too. But after a lengthy battle, Nicki eventually offered Chapman a $450,000 judgment, which she has accepted, ensuring the case won’t go to trial.
Nicki Minaj agrees to offer Tracy Chapman $450,000 in a copyright suit
According to court papers in the case, Minaj and her reps sought a license to Chapman’s composition, however, things got more complicated after it was revealed that the person put in charge in following up the task already knew that Chapman was one of the artists on the, “do not sample list”— an unwritten list of artists who are well-known for not allowing samples of their works.
None the less, Minaj’s team made all efforts to try and convince Chapman but all was in vain as she continuously rejected the request. Minaj persisted, but eventually, the song was leaked out to the internet creating lots of problems for her in the end.
In a statement, Chapman claimed victory on behalf of “artists’ rights.”
“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. “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.”
Her statement continued, “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.”
Hopefully, this will be a warning to all the other artists who try to sample any Tracy Chapman songs in the future. This also begs the question, why hasn’t Uganda strengthen its copyright laws for music artists as they have continuously been such cases of artists stealing or copying material from each other without formal legal action.
Author: Allan Bangirana
Allan Bangirana is a freelance writer for Newslibre & Spur Magazine. He is passionate about tech, games and occasionally writes about entertainment, lifestyle and so much more.