Following the release of Nicki Minaj’s 2018 album, Queen, a leftover song from the album suddenly landed on the internet. The track, which is titled “Sorry” and features a verse from Nas, was intended to appear on Queen, but due to a failed sample clearance of Tracy Chapman’s 1988 song “Baby Can I Hold You,” it was left off the album. But the song ended up in the hands of Funkmaster Flex as he premiered it on his HOT 97 radio show. Soon after, the song leaked to the internet. As a result, Chapman sued Nicki for unpaid royalties from the unauthorized sample and sought to prohibit her from officially releasing the song and performing it. Almost two years, a judge made a decision on the case, clearing Nicki.
According to Variety, U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips found that Nicki did not commit copyright infringement and that the song falls in line with the “fair use” principle. In her ruling, Phillips wrote, “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. A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry.”
Prior to the ruling, Nicki claimed that the lawsuit was not justifiable as she did not release “Sorry” for profit and had no control in the song being leaked online. According to court documents, she also claimed that Chapman “is not the owner of the copyright in issue and therefore lacks standing to bring the claims alleged in the Complaint.”