Nicki Minaj’s Song ‘Starships’ Lands her in a Lawsuit


‘Starships’, Nicki Minaj’s 2012 summer hit, landed the singer in a copyright infringement lawsuit Tuesday by Clive Tanaka, a Chicago musician.  ‘Starships’ set a record for its 21 week stint in Billboard’s Top 10.  

According to the Chicago Tribune, Tanaka filed suit against Minaj, Producer Nadir Khayat (better known as RedOne), and writers Carl Falk, Wayne Hector and Rami Yacoub.  Tanaka’s attorney says Tanaka’s 2011 composition, ‘Neu Chicago’ is too similar to Minaj’s 2012 Billboard hit to be a coincidence. Tanaka filed suit under his company name alleging Minaj used his song to orchestrate her electro-pop hit.

In the suit filed Tuesday Tanaka alleged that Minaj, along with several collaborators, copied substantial portions of ‘Neu Chicago’, which according to Tanaka had already experienced widespread play across the US and had hundreds of thousands of listens online prior to the conception of ‘Starships’. Tanaka attempts to keep himself mysterious.  His fans do not know his real name or where he resides, and he has never performed publicly.

Copyright infringement cases are common, often arising from an amateur artists claiming a popular artist crafted an idea based off the amateur’s mixtape.

Matthew Sag, a law professor at Loyola University said, “The first step in a copyright suit is to prove that the defendants were in a position to have heard the music that was allegedly stolen.” Tanaka alleges the writers resided in Sweden at the time his music was being used in a television ad for a clothing retailer. According to Sag, this will be extremely important to this case.  Minaj and her collaborators will have to provide records on their creative process for ‘Starships’.

Take a listen and see what you think:


2 responses to “Nicki Minaj’s Song ‘Starships’ Lands her in a Lawsuit”

  1. joselandivarartherlaw says :

    The songs sound awfully similar, but Nicki’s lawyers could claim that the similarities are only a result of similar chord progressions particular to electronic music and that although the song was used in a commercial, that does not demonstrate that the clients in fact heard the song…but in all honesty, it sounds like Tanaka has a compelling case based on the accessibility of his music and the similarities in the songs. I predict it will settle somewhere down the line.

    • cartere07 says :

      But the way it is the same beat pattern, it will be awfully hard to prove they somehow created it so similar without any kind of guidance from the original song. On the same note, it will be really hard to prove the Neu Chicago was their motivation. Settlement definitely sounds like the best route. I concur.

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