SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Cardi B had a heated exchange Wednesday with the lawyer of a man who alleges the rapper misused his likeness for her sexually suggestive mixtape cover art.
The Grammy winner battled with Kevin Michael Brophy’s lawyer, A. Barry Cappello, about his allegation in a $5 million copyright-infringement lawsuit in a federal court in Southern California. Brophy claims that he did not consent to such a use of his likeness in the 2016 artwork – which showed a tattooed man from behind with his head between the rapper’s legs.
But Cardi B pointed out that the man’s face cannot be seen. Cappello asked the rapper to calm down, but she barked back at his sentiment that she knew about photo-editing software that was used to put the back tattoo – which has appeared in tattoo magazines – onto the male model used in the mixtape cover.
“It’s not your client’s back,” she said about the image, featuring the Black model who posed for the photos, while Brophy is white. The rapper said she posted a photo of who she calls a “famous Canadian model.”
Cardi B, whose real name is Belcalis Almanzar, said an artist used only a “small portion” of the tattoos without her knowledge. She had previously said the cover art – created by Timm Gooden — was transformative fair use of Brophy’s likeness.
Cappello said Gooden was paid $50 to create a design but was then told to find another tattoo after he turned in an initial draft. He said Gooden googled “back tattoos” before he found an image and pasted it on the cover.
Her lawyer Peter Anderson said Brophy and the mixtape image are unrelated. He said the model did not have tattoos on his neck, which Brophy does.
“It’s not him,” the rapper said. “To me, it doesn’t look like his back at all. The tattoo was modified, which is protected by the First Amendment.”
The trial kicked off Tuesday with Brophy with him saying he was humiliated because of the racy artwork.
But Cardi B disputed that Brophy’s life was disrupted and he suffered any kind of distress. She said the image hasn’t hindered Brophy’s employment with a popular surf and skate apparel brand or his ability to travel the world for opportunities.
“He hasn’t gotten fired from his job,” said Cardi B, who implied that the mixtape was not a lucrative one for her. “He hasn’t gotten a divorce. How has he suffered? He’s still in a surf shop at his job. Please tell me how he’s suffered.”
Cardi B said she feels like Brophy has been continually harassing her the past five years. She said she missed a special moment with her youngest child, who just turned one years old last month.
“I have empathy for people,” she said. “I care about people. I feel like I’m being taken advantage of. I missed my child’s first step by being here.”
Cardi B kept defending herself, while a pacing Cappello continued to ask her stern questions. Their testy exchange was enough for Judge Cormac Carney to step in and send jurors out the courtroom.
Carney told both the plaintiff and defense that he thought about having a mistrial. The judge took a short break before he returned and decided to put limits on the examinations from both sides.
“We’re at a point where it’s just not productive,” he said. “We’re arguing with one another. It’s unprofessional and our brand (of the U.S. District Court) is being diluted.”
Brophy, a self-described family man, said he sent a cease-and-desist letter to Cardi B’s representatives to remove the tattoo, but he never received a response. The rapper said she hadn’t seen the letter.
At one point, Cardi B said she doesn’t check her mailbox because that’s’ for “old people” – a statement that garnered some chuckles.
When Cardi B left the courthouse, she was swarmed by around 30 high schoolers who were attempting to take selfies with her. As the rapper walked toward her vehicle with security, she smiled and waved before telling them she would be more responsive after the trial.
Last month, Cardi B pleaded guilty to a criminal case stemming from a pair of brawls at New York City strip clubs that required her to perform 15 days of community service. Earlier this year, the rapper was awarded $1.25 million in a defamation lawsuit against a celebrity news blogger who posted videos falsely stating she used cocaine, had contracted herpes and engaged in prostitution.
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