Tracy Chapman Sues Nicki Minaj for Copyright Infringement

Billboard is reporting that Tracy Chapman has filed a copyright infringement suit against Nicki Minaj in Los Angeles on Monday over the unreleased Queen track “Sorry” featuring Nas, which reporting borrowed the lyrics and melody of Chapman’s 1988 track “Baby Can I Hold You.”

“Tracy Chapman very much protects her rights and she has a right to deny a license when requested,” said Chapman’s longtime attorney, Lee Phillips to Billboard, adding that Chapman has received potentially “hundreds” of requests over the decades to sample or interpolate her music and that, as far as he knows, she has never granted a single one.

This comes three months after Minaj delayed her album saying she had yet to clear the track with Chapman, and she even encouraged her fans to troll Chapman on social media to force her hand.

Minaj still didn’t get the clearance and it wasn’t long before New York DJ Funkmaster Flex teased on social media that Nicki had given him something “ft @nas” that is “not on her [Queen] album.”

Funklex played the song on Hot 97 and it quickly spread across the Internet.

“This action is necessary to redress Maraj’s disregard and willful infringement of Chapman’s rights under the Copyright Act, and to ensure that her misconduct is not repeated,” the suit reads. Because “Sorry” clearly “incorporates the lyrics and vocal melody of the Composition, its most recognizable and memorable parts,” comprising “approximately half the Infringing Work,” without authorization, Phillips was forced to file the suit on his client’s behalf once the song was played on the radio; the suit notes that “on or around” July 16, 2018, Chapman’s business managers informed Minaj’s team that they would not grant consent to use the song.

The lawsuit seeks to restrain Minaj for “copying or otherwise using or exploiting the Infringing Work” and to prevent third parties from doing so, as well as damages for Chapman from any profit Minaj makes from the track.

“There is no question this is infringement,” says Phillips, senior partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP. “If someone asked what Nicki Minaj’s defense is going to be we have no idea.”

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