It seems more common than ever for musicians to build on other artists’ work by sampling recognizable hooks, refrains or lyrics and repurposing them into a variety of genres. However, a musician who samples another artist’s song without permission may end up facing intellectual property litigation. One example of this is singer Nicki Minaj’s dispute with Grammy winner Tracy Chapman.
On the cusp of the release of her new album, Minaj used Twitter to publicly ask Chapman for permission to include a sample of Chapman’s ‘Baby Can I Hold You’ on the new release. Chapman apparently denied the request because Minaj later tweeted, “Sis said no.” Nevertheless, the next day, a popular New York DJ announced that he had a special track from Minaj’s new album before posting on his website a Minaj song that borrowed heavily from Chapman’s ‘Baby Can I Hold You.’
The singer apparently included the chorus and several verses from Chapman’s song. Although Minaj earned no money from the posted track and the DJ quickly removed it, listeners had time to rip the song from the website and leak it. Chapman has filed a lawsuit asking the courts to order Minaj to cease any further use of the song. She is also seeking financial compensation.
Analysts say Chapman has the better chance of winning this intellectual property litigation because of Minaj’s public tweet that Chapman denied her request for the sample. Anyone whose artistic work is allegedly lifted without permission has the right to fight to protect his or her rights. A skilled New York attorney can provide invaluable assistance.