Representatives of Nick Minaj had attempted to contact Tracy Chapman to use samples of her 1988 song, ‘Baby Can I Hold You’ in Minaj’s song, ‘Sorry’ which was rejected. ‘Sorry’ was later played on a popular American radio station, Hot 97 by Aston Taylor, also known as, Funkmaster Flex. Minaj was accused of leaking the song to Taylor which she has denied. Taylor has since stated that he received the song from a blogger.
Chapman filled a lawsuit shortly after the song was played on the radio. Minaj claimed the song was not created for commercial use and that it was for experimental purposes. Chapman claimed Minaj intended to commercialise the song as she asked permission before releasing the song which was denied.
In September 2020, a Central District of California judge ruled that Minaj’s use of the song constituted fair use and did not infringe Chapman’s work. District Judge Virginia A Phillips stated that ‘artists usually experiment with works before seeking licenses from rightsholders’ who ‘typically ask to see a proposed work before approving a license. A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry.’
The parties entered into court ordered mediation of which they failed to reach a resolution and Chapman was allowed to continue proceedings in October 2020.
Minaj’s lawyers offered the sum of $450,000 to Chapman towards the end of 2020 and Chapman accepted shorty afterwards. Both parties agreed to a ‘judgement of copyright infringement against Minaj and a payment of $450,000 to Chapman’.