- Nicki Minaj recorded her song “Sorry” in 2017, which featured lyrics and melodies from Tracy Chapman’s 1988 song “Baby Can I Hold You.”
- When Chapman repeatedly refused to give Minaj licensing permission for the track, it was dropped from Minaj’s 2018 “Queen” album. However, the song later leaked on the radio and online, prompting Chapman to file a copyright infringement lawsuit against Minaj.
- Chapman accused her of distributing the song to a radio DJ and claimed she shouldn’t have even been allowed to record it.
- Minaj’s team denied distributing the song and warned that artists need to be able to experiment with existing material without worrying that they could be sued once they actually do approach that rights-holder for a license.
- A judge sided with Minaj Wednesday, saying her demo song falls under fair use, adding, “A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry.”
The Two Songs
A judge has ruled in favor of Nicki Minaj on Wednesday in a copyright infringement lawsuit brought against her by fellow singer Tracy Chapman.
Music lovers and members of the industry have had a close eye on this case, believing it could have a huge impact on the music industry.
The suit stems from a 2017 song Minaj recorded featuring Nas called “Sorry.” At the time, the rapper was reportedly under the impression that the song was a remake of a one created by artist Shelly Thunder. However, she later discovered that most of the lyrics and some of the melody came from Tracy Chapman’s 1988 song “Baby Can I Hold You.”
After learning this, Minaj’s representatives reached out to Chapman for permission to use the song, but Chapman repeatedly refused. According to Chapman, she had a blanket policy against granting such permission, so in 2018, Minaj dropped her “Queen” album without the song “Sorry.”
The unreleased track then somehow made its way into the hands of a New York radio DJ known as Funkmaster Flex, who played it on air. Portions of the track also later aired on “The Breakfast Club,” before leaking online.
In response, Chapman filed a copyright infringement lawsuit accusing Minaj of providing the DJ with the song and arguing that Minaj shouldn’t have even been allowed to make the unauthorized track in the first place.
Both Minaj and Flex have denied that the song came from her or her authorized representatives. Instead, Flex said he received it from one of his bloggers.
Minaj’s attorneys then filed a motion warning that Chapman’s suit “should send a shiver down the spine of those concerned with the entertainment industry.”
They argued that artists need to be free to create something based on existing material without worrying that they could be sued for experimenting once they actually do approach that rights-holder for a license.
“Such free-flowing creativity is important to all recording artists, but particularly in hip hop,” her legal team said.
“With that category of music, a recording artist typically goes into the studio and experiments with dozens of different ‘beats’ or snippets of melodies, before hitting upon a pleasing combination.”
They also warned that 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.”
The latest update to the case came Wednesday when U.S. district judge Virginia A. Phillips ultimately sided with Minaj.
In her ruling, the judge said the rapper’s experimentation with the song constitutes “fair use” not copyright infringement.
“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,” she explained.
“Chapman has requested samples of proposed works before approving licensing requests herself because she wanted ‘to see how [her work] will be used’ before approving the license, yet Chapman argues against the very practice she maintains. A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry.”
The decision is a major win for Minaj but the dispute between the two artists isn’t exactly over.
That’s because Chapman is still trying to argue that Minaj infringed on her song rights by sending the song to Funkmaster Flex. Chapman’s lawyers asked the judge to find that the distribution constituted copyright infringement as a matter of law, but the judge ruled that that dispute would need to go to a jury.
That could end up being a pretty tricking case for Minaj because according to Chapman’s legal team, she reached out to Flex on August 3, 2018, offering the song. Minaj allegedly followed up a week later on August 10 saying, “You got me tonight? The song is me and Nas. Send your number.” The next day, the song was played on the radio and promoted on social media.
Minaj’s team has pushed back against some of these points, as well as other claims, still maintaining that she did not send the song.
In her decision, judge Phillips noted factual disputes concerning when Flex received the work, who exactly gave it to him, whether it was a mastered version, and more. When the trial takes place, Minaj will likely be pressed on some of this conflicting information.
See what others are saying: (Variety) (Complex) (MarketPlace)
Joe Rogan Says Grimes Did Not Give Dave Chappelle COVID-19
- Comedian Dave Chappelle is under quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. He is asymptomatic and his remaining shows in Austin, Texas have been canceled.
- The news comes just days after Chappelle was photographed with Joe Rogan, Elon Musk, Grimes, and several others backstage at one of his Austin performances.
- “Because people are asking, I was not exposed to the person who had covid and I have tested negative every day this week,” Rogan wrote on Instagram Friday. “Also, the person that gave covid to Dave was NOT Elon’s partner @grimes.”
Chappelle Tests Positive
Comedian Dave Chappelle has tested positive for coronavirus and is currently under quarantine, according to one of his representatives.
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, that rep also confirmed that he is currently asymptomatic and has canceled all of his remaining shows at Stubbs Waller Creek Amphitheater in Austin, Texas.
“Chappelle has safely conducted socially-distanced shows in Ohio since June 2020 and he moved those shows to Austin during the winter,” the statement read.
“Chappelle implemented COVID-19 protocols which included rapid testing for the audience and daily testing for himself and his team. His diligent testing enabled him to immediately respond by quarantining, thus mitigating the spread of the virus,” it continued.
Joe Rogan Speaks Out After He Was Photographed With Chappelle
Two of the remaining Austin shows were supposed to include fellow comedian Joe Rogan. Rogan took to Instagram Friday morning to announce that they will be rescheduled as soon as possible.
Still, many fans had questions about Rogan’s current state of health. The news of Chappelle’s positive test comes just days after he was photographed maskless with Rogan, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, musician Grimes, and several others backstage at one of his Austin performances.
Since Grimes, who is also in a relationship with Musk, recently had COVID, many were concerned that she may have exposed the group. Others wondered if Chappelle may have spread it.
Rogan eventually updates his Instagram caption to dismiss the ideas.
“Because people are asking, I was not exposed to the person who had covid and I have tested negative every day this week,” he wrote.“Also, the person that gave covid to Dave was NOT Elon’s partner @grimes.”
See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (CNN) (AP News)
Netflix Passes 200M Subscribers as Other Streamers Struggle With Retention
- In a letter to shareholders, Netflix said it has hit over 200 million subscribers following a successful year of growth.
- The pandemic gave Netflix a significant subscriber boost in March and April. The company continued to perform well even in its final quarter, gaining 8.5 million subscribers when it was only projected to add 6 million.
- The data also highlights how relatively unaffected Netflix has been by new streaming services entering the market. While companies like Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock continue to grow, they also struggle to retain the subscribers that sign up.
Netflix Passes 200 Million Subscribers
Netflix has topped 200 million subscribers following a year of strong growth in 2020.
In its Tuesday letter to shareholders, Netflix announced that it added 8.5 million subscribers in its fourth quarter. This exceeds projections, which estimated the streaming giant would only add around 6 million. In total, Netflix gained 37 million new memberships throughout 2020, bringing the company to 203.6 million subscribers.
Pandemic lockdowns gave Netflix a substantial boost in March in April. In the company’s first two quarters, it added a combined 25.7 million subscribers. According to data from the letter, Netflix had added over 10 million more subscribers by May of 2020 than it had by May of 2019.
When it comes to the success of their fourth quarter, Netflix pointed to shows like “Bridgerton” and “The Crown.” The fourth season of “The Crown” hit the platform in November, prompting many to return to older seasons of the show. Netflix claims the series has been viewed by 100 million households since it first aired in 2016.
Success Amid Growth of Competition
The year 2020 could have been a difficult one for Netflix as new streaming services entered the market. Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, Peacock and more have all made waves with their original programming or by taking some of their brand’s content from Netflix to host on their own site. User-based content on YouTube and TikTok also became increasingly popular throughout the pandemic, further posing as a threat to Netflix.
Still, it reached a massive milestone.
“Our strategy is simple: if we can continue to improve Netflix every day to better delight our members, we can be their first choice for streaming entertainment,” Netflix said in the letter. “This past year is a testament to this approach.”
Netflix potentially sees Disney+ as the biggest competitor among new platforms. In its letter, the company noted that the streamer added 87 million subscribers in its first year. In a Q&A, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings seemed enthusiastic about this competition.
“It’s super impressive what Disney’s done,” he said. “It’s going to be great for the world that Disney and Netflix are competing show-by-show, movie-by-movie. We’re very fired up about catching them in family animation, maybe eventually passing them, we’ll see. It’s a long way to go just to catch them, and maintaining our lead in general entertainment that’s so stimulating like ‘Bridgerton,’ which I don’t think you’re going to see on Disney anytime soon.”
Streamers Struggle with Retaining Subscribers
Even as new streamers have had impressive years, there is one hurdle that many are still struggling to jump over: retaining the subscribers who sign up. The Los Angeles Times named Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Apple TV+ in particular, writing that people create accounts with these services, watch the TV shows or movies they are interested in, and cancel once they are done.
An October survey from Deloitte said that 46% of respondents canceled at least one streaming service in the last 6 months, which is up 20% from January of last year. Most who had canceled said they did so because they had finished watching whatever programming it was that brought them to that service.
Places like Disney+ and HBO Max are really vulnerable to this because they have banked on drawing people in with exclusive marquis titles like “Hamilton” or “Wonder Woman 1984.” However, since they are newer, they are still building their original programming catalog, meaning that people can quickly burn through highlight titles.
See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Wall Street Journal) (The Hollywood Reporter)
Paramount+ To Launch March 4
- ViacomCBS is launching Paramount+ in the United States and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out to other markets internationally later this year.
- The streaming service will be a relaunch and expansion of CBS All Access. It will include content from Nickelodeon, MTV, and more on top of the CBS-focused selection.
Paramount+ Gets Launch Date
ViacomCBS will be launching its streaming service Paramount+ in the U.S. and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out in more countries throughout the year.
It will be an expansion and rebrand of CBS All Access, the service the company currently offers that is used by nearly 8 million subscribers. Paramount+ will go beyond the CBS-centric content promoted there, including works from brands like Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and the Smithsonian Channel.
More details about their streaming strategy will be released during an investor event on February 24. Right now, ViacomCBS is boasting that the service will have over 30,000 episodes and movies in their catalog, which will also include live sports and breaking news.
“The Paramount brand is known and loved all around the world, and is synonymous with great entertainment. It’s always brought people together, which makes it a perfect fit for a streaming service that’s uniquely positioned to do the same,” Josh Line the chief brand officer of ViacomCBS said during a brand announcement in September. “The Paramount+ streaming service will elevate ViacomCBS’ iconic family of brands.”
State of the Streaming Wars
Paramount+ has already announced a slew of original projects including a revival of “iCarly” and a series about the making of “The Godfather” titled “The Offer.”
The service is entering an already crowded battlefield as the streaming wars wages on. It will have plenty of uphill battles to fight since brand recognition for Paramount is not nearly as strong as it is for studios like Disney or NBCUniversal. It will also have to compete with Netflix, which leads the pack in subscribers and unveils new content regularly; HBO Max, which will be home to Warner Media’s new theatrical releases; and Hulu, which hosts original content as well as shows currently airing on cable and network television.
ViacomCBS has not released information on pricing, but that will likely come during or before the February investor event.