The latest example of artists who leak tracks with un-cleared samples is Nicki Minaj who has agreed to pay Tracy Chapman close to a half-million dollars in damages to satisfy her copyright infringement claims over “Sorry,” a derivative of “Baby Can I Hold You.”
On Thursday, documents went public in California federal court confirming Chapman’s acceptance of Minaj’s offer of judgment, precluding a trial later this year. By accepting Minaj’s offer, Chapman scores a significant win in the case and $450,000.00 along with the peace of mind.
Tracy filed the case in October 2018, several months after Minaj had released her album, Queen. While “Sorry” (the track that contained the Chapman sample), wasn’t on the album, Minaj allegedly leaked the song to Funkmaster Flex, a popular radio DJ, that subsequently traveled across the internet. Though Minaj and her reps sought to license Chapman’s composition prior to the leak, they knew at the same time that the “Fast Car” artist was on the “do not sample list”— an unwritten list of musicians that were well-known for not allowing samples of their works.
On summary judgment, U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips concluded that Minaj had a fair use right to use the song specifically in the studio to enable musical experimentation, and could have possibly passed the buck to whoever actually leaked “Sorry.”