In writing about legal cases, whether they be in the sphere of intellectual property or falling anywhere else outside of it, it’s quite easy to spend your attention on the initial battle, ignoring the ongoing fight or the eventual resolution. Largely that’s a function of the legal system itself and the astonishing amount of time it can take a particular case to matriculate through the courts; beginning and end in many instances are separated by years, and repercussion and adjudication matter far less than the fact that the initial filing that’s been largely forgotten as well.
In the spirit of following up, there has been an update in the case between Tracy Chapman and Nicki Minaj, which I had previously written about. As a refresher: Chapman accused Minaj of sampling her song “Baby Can I Hold You” without permission or license, a charge that Minaj sought to repel by arguing that the creative process should permit for the use of others’ work in the recording studio, with the licensing coming later. The song in question wasn’t an official release but a “leak”, which is why the licensing part never came to fruition, in the version of events alleged by Minaj and her legal team.
Now it would appear we have a resolution to the story, as the Hollywood Reporter and others report that Chapman has accepted an offer of judgment from Minaj, with the amount of $450,000 attached to it. The settlement means both sides avoid what might have been a long and ultimately costly court case, and while $450,000 is no meager sum, it must be somewhere around the amount that Minaj and her team can justify to simply be done with a headache.
Was it a self-inflicted headache? Undoubtedly. As Eriq Gardner notes in his THR piece, Minaj’s label was aware of Chapman’s reputation as an artist that was unwilling to license her work, and even if Minaj is honest in stating that the recording wasn’t meant to make it to the public, why even proceed in private if the resulting work can never be used? It goes down as a lesson learned at a steep price, and a validation of how important it is for artists to protect their copyrighted work. Mostly though, it’s a reminder that all of these cases eventually reach their terminus, even if most of us have stopped paying attention.