On Thursday, in a California federal court, documents were made public that reflect Tracy Chapman accepting Nicki Minaj’s offer of judgment.
As a result, the two will no longer be proceeding with the trial later this year. By accepting Minaj’s offer, Chapman not only scores a win in the case and $450,000, but the esteemed singer also avoids being responsible for costs had a jury eventually decided her claims weren’t worth that amount.
In Oct. 2018, Chapman had filed the case only a couple of months after Minaj released her Queen album. Though the Nas collaboration, “Sorry,” wasn’t on the record, Minaj allegedly leaked the song to a popular radio DJ, Funkmaster Flex, and the song then went viral on the internet.
According to court papers in the case, Minaj and her reps sought to obtain a license for Chapman’s composition. One of the clearance specialists placed on the job knew that Chapman was on the “do not sample list,” an unwritten list of artists notorious for not approving samples of their works. Even so, the Minaj team attempted anyway, but Chapman denied the offer. Minaj persisted, but the song had already leaked.
On summary judgment, U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips concluded that Minaj had a fair use right to use the song in the studio to enable musical experimentation — “A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry” — while setting up a trial to explore the facts and responsibility for the leak and ultimate distribution of the song. Minaj may have had some hopes of ultimately prevailing, though there was still significant evidence against her.
Both sides now agree that $450,000 is a reasonable amount for a copyright judgment on this controversy.