Nicki Minaj is one step closer to freedom from her legal dispute with singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman. On Thursday, September 17, Judge Virginia A. Phillips ruled that Minaj did not engage in copyright infringement in her unreleased song “Sorry,” which samples Chapman’s song “Baby Can I Hold You.” In 2018, Chapman sued Minaj claiming that Mrs. Petty never had permission to use her song, but Judge Phillips ruled in favor of Minaj, citing the fair-use doctrine. “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,” wrote Phillips in her decision. “A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry.”
Although Minaj won the battle, the legal war with Chapman is not finished yet. While Minaj never officially released “Sorry,” despite publicly asking to Chapman for permission to use her song on her album Queen, the track did leak online after Funkmaster Flex played the song on the radio in August 2018. The court now must determine whether Minaj infringed upon Chapman’s rights by distributing the song over the radio. Until that day, Minaj is free to experiment with other artist’s samples, but we would suggest that she avoid “Fast Car,” for obvious reasons.