Cardi B absolved in racy mixtape artwork lawsuit

A jury sided with Cardi B on Friday in a copyright infringement suit involving a man who claimed the Grammy winner misused his back tattoos for her sexually suggestive 2016 mixtape cover artwork.

The federal jury in Southern California ruled that Kevin Michael Brophy failed to prove Cardi B abused his likeness. After the jury’s wife read the verdict, the rapper hugged her lawyers and looked elated.

Cardi B thanked the jury and admitted she was “pretty nervous” before hearing the verdict.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to lose or not,” she said after exiting the courthouse. She was swarmed by several reporters, photographers, and more than 40 high schoolers chanting her name. Holding up a sign, one fan asked if she could take him to his homecoming ball, to which she replied, “Yes, I’ll see what I can do.”

“I told myself if I won I would curse Mr. Brophy. But I don’t have the heart to curse him,” she said. In the courtroom, Cardi B had a brief, heartfelt chat with Brophy and shook his hand.

Brophy filed the lawsuit a year after the rapper’s 2016 mixtape was released. Referring to himself as a “family man with minor children,” he said he was “distressed and humiliated” by the artwork – which showed a tattooed man from behind with his head between the rapper’s legs in a limousine. The man’s face cannot be seen.

“At the end of the day, I respect you as an artist,” Brophy told Cardi B.

Brophy’s attorney, A. Barry Cappello, said photo editing software was used to put the back tattoo, which has appeared in tattoo magazines, on the male model on the mixtape cover.

But Cardi B, whose real name is Belcalis Almanzar, denied the allegations during testimony earlier this week – and had such intense exchanges with Cappello that the trial was briefly stayed by US District Judge Cormac Carney.

Cardi B said she felt Brophy suffered no consequences as a result of the artwork. She said Brophy legally molested her for five years — and even once said she missed her youngest child’s “first step” because of the trial.

Cardi B provided pointed answers to some of Cappello’s questions. The lawyer once asked her to calm down, but she sharply rebuffed his claim that she knew about the altered image.

Their heated exchange prompted the judge to dismiss the jury from the Santa Ana, Calif., courtroom, telling both sides he was considering mistrial. After a brief pause, he called the altercation “unprofessional” and “unproductive,” but allowed the questioning to resume and then imposed new restrictions on both sides.

Cardi B said an artist used only a “small portion” of the tattoos without her knowledge. She had previously said that the cover artwork, created by Timm Gooden, was a transformative fair use of Brophy’s likeness.

Cappello said Gooden was paid $50 to create a design but was told to find another tattoo after submitting an initial draft. He said Gooden Googled “back tattoos” before finding a picture and stuck it on the cover.

Cardi B’s attorney Peter Anderson said that Brophy and the mixtape picture were unrelated, noting that the model didn’t have any neck tattoos — which Brophy does.

“It’s not your client’s back,” Cardi B said of the picture, which featured a black model. Brophy is white. The rapper pointed out that she posted a photo of the “famous Canadian model” on her social media.

“It’s not him,” she continued. “To me, it doesn’t look like his back at all. The tattoo has been modified, which is protected under the First Amendment.”

Cardi B said the image hasn’t hampered Brophy’s tenure with a popular surf and skate apparel brand or his ability to travel the world.

“He wasn’t fired from his job,” said the rapper, who hinted that the mixtape wasn’t lucrative for her. “He didn’t get divorced. How did he suffer? He’s still at that job in a surf shop. Please tell me how he suffered.”

Last month, Cardi B pleaded guilty to a criminal case stemming from two New York City strip club brawls that required her to complete 15 days of community service. Earlier this year, the rapper was awarded $1.25 million in a defamation lawsuit against a famous news blogger who posted videos falsely claiming she had used cocaine, contracted herpes and engaged in prostitution.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Cardi B absolved in racy mixtape artwork lawsuit

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