Tracy Chapman wins $450K settlement in copyright lawsuit against Nicki Minaj

Nikki Minaj is sorry, and her apology will be worth $450,000.

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The hip-hop star’s offer of judgment was accepted by singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman, who claimed in a lawsuit two years ago that Minaj took her work without permission, The New York Times reported.

According to documents filed in California’s federal Central District Court on Thursday, Chapman has accepted Minaj’s offer and will receive $450,000.

At issue was Minaj’s song, “Sorry,” a collaboration with Nas, which used both the lyrics and vocal melody from “Baby Can I Hold You,” a song Chapman released in 1998, NPR reported.

The agreement means there will not be a trial.

Minaj’s song was never officially released, but it had been played on the radio by celebrity disc jockey Funkmaster Flex on New York radio station Hot 97, the Times reported.

Chapman said Minaj had asked permission to use the song but she refused. Minaj argued in her defense that “Sorry,” even without Chapman’s blessing, was protected by the “fair use” doctrine. That is an exception to copyright law that allows artists to borrow copyrighted material under certain conditions, the newspaper reported.

On summary judgment, U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips ruled that Minaj had a fair use right to use the song in the studio to enable musical experimentation, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry,” Phillips wrote, setting up a trial to explore the facts surrounding how the song got to Funkmaster Flex.

Minaj opted instead to offer a settlement, which Chapman agreed to.

In a statement on Friday, Chapman said she was pleased with the settlement, adding that it “affirms that artists’ rights are protected by law and should be respected by other artists.”

“As a songwriter and an independent publisher I have been known to be protective of my work,” Chapman stated. “I have never authorized the use of my songs for samples or requested a sample. This lawsuit was a last resort.”

Minaj’s attorney, Peter W. Ross, said that his client “settled for one reason only. It would have cost us more to go to trial.”