According to reports from Variety, U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips determined that Nicki didn’t commit copyright infringement by experimenting with Chapman’s 1988 song “Baby Can I Hold You” before seeking her permission to use certain elements from her track.
“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,” Phillips wrote. “A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry.”
In the end, the rapper created the song “Sorry,” which borrows most of the lyrics and some of the melody from “Baby Can I Hold You.” She intended to put the song on her 2018 album, Queen. The track never made the project, though, as her request to sample the song was repeatedly turned down by Chapman, who claimed in her suit to have a blanket policy against granting permission.
While “Sorry” never made it to the album, a leaked version was played by Funkmaster Flex, with a portion of the track airing later on The Breakfast Club. Nicki and her authorized representatives denied providing Funkmaster Flex or The Breakfast Club with the audio.
Minaj’s attorneys argued that artists should be given the freedom to utilize a variety of beats, melodies, etc. before determining how the final product will sound. Her lawyers believe that a ruling in Chapman’s favor “would impose a financial and administrative burden so early in the creative process that all but the most well-funded creators would be forced to abandon their visions at the outset.”
Ultimately, Judge Phillips ruled that Nicki Minaj was protected under the “fair use” doctrine.