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Nicki Minaj’s Legal Battle Could Change The Music Industry As We Know It

Chun-Li is still up to her street fighting ways, even in the midst of pregnancy. This time she battles in the courtroom with Grammy award winning singer and songwriter Tracy Chapman. Chapman and Minaj are currently involved in a copyright battle that could have major implications on the music industry as a whole. Chapman filed a lawsuit against Nicki Minaj for copyright infringement, after her scrapped record “Sorry” featuring Nas was somehow leaked to Hot 97 and later uploaded all over the internet. The song features an interpolation from Chapman’s 1988 release “Baby Can I Hold You”. Chapman’s attorney states that Minaj: “violated Ms. Chapman’s copyright by creating an illegal derivative work and distributing that work”. If Tracy Chapman wins, sampling in Hip-hop might never be the same. Some of the biggest records on the charts today, utilize sampling. If a song that was never commercially released and was allegedly (as Nicki Minaj claims) leaked to radio can be successfully sued for copyright infringement, artists everywhere are going to be free game. If your song somehow ends up on the internet and it utilizes a sample that isn’t cleared, you can be taken to court. Essentially, artists would have to get clearance to even play around with samples in the studio. No artist will want to take that financial risk, which is why this has the potential to flip Hip-Hop’s culture of sampling music to create hits. Sampling has given us some of Hip-Hop's biggest icons like Kanye West, and has created new stars like Travis Scott.

In an interview with Okay Player, music lawyer and professor at Rowan University Karl Fowlkes, Esq predicted what he thinks will happen with this lawsuit. Suggesting that Chapman may not get the victory she hopes for in court. Folkes states: “I don’t think Tracy Chapman’s chances are too good because Nicki Minaj never commercially released the song. This is a weird case because no one is actually fighting the validity of the interpolation. Here, Chapman is challenging whether a song even has to be commercially released by the artist or label to be held liable for infringement involving a sample. That is an extremely dangerous notion. Imagine having to clear a sample before even playing around with it — that just doesn’t make sense. Creativity would be stifled.” Rightfully so, this will take a major toll on the creative process of music’s most renowned hit makers.

It’s not a stretch to say that Nicki is carrying the fate of Hip-Hop on her back with this case. Nicki Minaj is no stranger to changing the music industry, she’s always been vocal about artists getting their fair share of the prize. Business Insider credits Nicki’s fight for her own streams to be counted as sales, to changing the way streaming is utilized in music. In 2016, Nicki won her fight with the RIAA to have streaming numbers count towards overall sales. In a world where streaming music was becoming extremely popular and music sales were at all time low, certifications were based solely on sales. Essentially, it didn’t matter how many times your songs were streamed, despite that being the primary way in which people were consuming music. RIAA re-evaluated it’s algorithm, making 1,500 streams count as the equivalent of 10 track sales or 1 album sale. Which was a big win for all artists, especially independent artists who don’t have the access to having their music distributed to major retailers. This change can be directly responsible for the breakthrough of many of today’s top new artist. Win, lose or draw - Nicki will once again be a ripple in the tide, changing the course of the music industry as we know it.

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