Nicki Minaj Fires Back at Tracy Chapman's 'Sorry' Lawsuit, Denies Copyright Infringement

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
Nicki Minaj poses in the press room at the MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 20, 2018 in New York City. 

Last October, Tracy Chapman sued Nicki Minaj for copyright infringement, claiming the rapper's track "Sorry" interpolated her 1988 single "Baby Can I Hold You" without permission. Now, in her first formal response to the lawsuit, Minaj is firing back.

In new court documents, filed in a California federal court on Feb. 22 and obtained by Billboard, Minaj (born Onika Tanya Maraj) denies copyright infringement. The news was first reported by The Blast.

While Minaj admits "she recorded a musical interpolation ('Sorry') that incorporated music and lyrics from the Composition [“Baby Can I Hold You”]," Minaj argues that her interpolation is protected by the doctrine of fair use. Further, she claims that Chapman "has not properly registered her claim to the copyright in the Composition," adding that Chapman "is not the owner of the copyright in issue and therefore lacks standing to bring the claims alleged in the Complaint.” Minaj also argues that Chapman is not entitled to damages. 

"Sorry" was meant to appear on Minaj's Queen, but after the unreleased track was leaked to New York DJ Funkmaster Flex and played on Hot 97 over the summer, Chapman filed a suit seeking damages as well as an order to prevent Minaj from releasing the song. In the documents, Minaj concedes that she and her team made "several requests for permission" to license the song from Chapman's self-titled debut, all of which were denied. "Defendant admits that Sorry incorporates music and lyrics from the Composition," the documents read. "Defendant admits that she made a recording of Sorry without first seeking authorization to do so." 

Attorneys for both sides did not respond to immediate requests for comment.


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