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California Court’s Finding of Fair Use for Nicki Minaj Affirms Public Benefit of Artistic Experimentation

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In a ruling earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips of the Central District of California granted partial summary judgment in favor of Onika Tanya Maraj, who performs rap under the stage name Nicki Minaj, resolving a copyright infringement dispute originally filed in 2018 by singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman over Minaj’s unauthorized use of Chapman’s 1988 single “Baby Can I Hold You.” In ruling that Minaj had established a fair use defense to Chapman’s copyright infringement claims, Judge Phillips affirmed the important role of experimenting with copyrighted works prior to licensing as a common practice within the recording industry.

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