Nicki Minaj has been cleared of copyright infringement against singer Tracy Chapman.
The rapper was hit with the court action in October 2018, after New York DJ Funkmaster Flex obtained a copy of the song Sorry, which featured Minaj’s ex, hip-hop legend Nas, and contained a sample of Chapman’s 1988 track Baby Can I Hold You.
The Anaconda hitmaker had originally intended to include the tune on her album Queen, but ended up releasing the project without Sorry as she encountered clearance issues.
Minaj had previously insisted she did nothing wrong, arguing the sample falls under the fair use category of copyright law, and requested the case be dismissed. She later decided to seek a jury trial to clear her name.
On Wednesday, U.S. district judge Virginia A. Phillips ruled in favour of Minaj, agreeing that her interpretation of the song was “fair use”.
“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,” Judge Phillips said in the ruling.
“A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry.”
However, Judge Phillips also said that the matter of whether Minaj committed copyright infringement by allegedly giving Flex the tune would need to be heard by a jury.