Nicki Minaj Hit With Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

Chicago underground artist Clive Tanaka has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Nicki Minaj claiming that she borrowed components of his 2011 song “Neu Chicago” on 2012 her chart-topping single “Starships.”

Tanaka filed the lawsuit under the name of his company, Tanaka Light Industries USA, in US District Court in Chicago Tuesday. In addition to Minaj, whose real name is Onika Maraj, the lawsuit names producer Nadir “RedOne” Khayat, Carl Falk, Wayne Hector, and Rami Yacoub as defendants. The lawsuit claims that Minaj and her collaborators copied substantial portions of “Neu Chicago,” which he said received widespread airplay and online listens in the US by the time “Starships” was written.

According to the copyright complaint, the song received regular airplay on Los Angeles’ KCRW FM, over 100,000 plays on Last.FM, and over 135,000 views on YouTube. The song was also distributed through iTunes, Amazon, and other services.

“They had a very good opportunity to hear it … We believe they are similar to the point that it is nearly impossible for it to be a coincidence,” Tanaka’s lawyer, Christopher Niro, told the Chicago Tribune.

Tanaka also believes that several of the collaborators were living in Sweden at the same time “Neu Chicago” was featured in advertising campaigns in the country. The song was used in campaigns for clothing retailer KappAhl and FUN Light beverages, as well as an online campaign for ASOS, the UK’s largest online retailer.

The lawsuit claims that “Defendants including Minaj and RedOne copied and incorporated substantial, original portions of Plaintiff’s song, ‘Neu Chicago,’ in Defendants’ musical composition and sound recording, ‘Starships.'” The suit also says that the defendants never sought permission to “copy, duplicate, perform, or otherwise use” the song in “Starships” or at all.

Neither Nicki Minaj nor a representative for the Young Money rapper has responded to Clive Tanaka’s copyright infringement lawsuit.

[Photo credit: Joe Seer /]

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