In 2018, Tracy Chapman sued Nicki Minaj for copyright infringement over Nicki’s unreleased song “Sorry,” which interpolates Chapman’s “Baby Can I Hold You.” Chapman claimed her music was used without permission. Minaj then denied committing copyright infringement, stating that her interpolation was protected by the doctrine of fair use. A judge has now agreed with Minaj, handing her a victory in court on Wednesday when she ruled that Minaj did not commit copyright infringement when she wrote and recorded her song, Variety reports.
Judge Virginia A. Phillips cited the doctrine of fair use in her ruling. “Artists usually experiment with works before seeking licenses from rights holders and rights holders typically ask to see a proposed work before approving a license,” Phillips wrote. “A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry.”
Minaj’s “Sorry” surfaced online in August 2018 after Funkmaster Flex played the track on the radio. Before Flex premiered the song, Minaj had publicly asked Chapman to clear a sample to appear on her album Queen. Minaj and Chapman’s legal fight will continue over whether Minaj infringed on Chapman’s song by distributing “Sorry” over the radio.
In her lawsuit, Chapman sought damages and an order to prevent Nicki and her team from releasing “Sorry.” According to Chapman’s suit, Nicki’s team made “multiple requests” to license “Baby Can I Hold You” and was denied.