Musicians often find a beat, motif or melody they want to incorporate into their works. Yet, sometimes building on another artist’s music might infringe on their intellectual property (IP) rights.

Given the personal nature of songwriting, it’s natural for musicians to take pride in what they produce. It’s also common practice to protect one’s interests accordingly.

Tracy Chapman to recover $450,000 in damages

Copyright infringement accusations arose in a dispute between Tracy Chapman and Nicki Minaj. Despite Chapman’s claimed lack of permission, Minaj allegedly used Chapman’s “Baby Can I Hold You” in her recording “Sorry.”

After Minaj’s track aired on the radio, Chapman asserted Minaj provided the recording to the DJ responsible for making the unreleased track famous. To avoid likely litigation expense, Minaj agreed to a $450,000 settlement out of court last December.

Reports indicate Chapman supports this resolution due to its confirmation of an artist’s right to prohibit others from financially benefitting from their protected work. As such, musicians who copyright their songs retain the right to hold others accountable for their unauthorized use.

Consensus and ambiguity

There’s little doubt that the arts hold deep meaning, and therefore value, to individuals. But regardless of personal preferences regarding music genre, the legal landscape may leave some details to interpretation.

In general, those within the music industry agree artists should receive fair compensation for their work. Additionally, there’s a recognized need for:

  • Easier access to information about the music licensing
  • A more efficient registration process
  • Transparency to copyright holders

Unfortunately, those within the music industry seem to struggle with how to implement those desired changes.

Considering music’s permeation of daily life, it may be somewhat difficult to set defined limits on a song’s inspiration. However, when alleged infringement enters the equation, it’s important to defer to the legal protections in place.

From the airwaves to the boardroom

Pop music may not be of concern to businesses that develop software, create video games or design clothing. However, IP protection remains integral within every industry.

Once you create something, register its ownership. Although you may not be able to prevent others’ attempts to benefit from your work, you can provide yourself the ability to take legal action if you suspect another entity infringed on your rights.