Cardi B absolved in lawsuit over suggestive mixtape artwork

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A jury has sided with Cardi B in a copyright infringement case involving a man who claims the Grammy-winning rapper misused his back tattoos for his sexually cover-up suggestive of the 2016 mixtape.

A federal jury in Santa Ana, Southern California, ruled that Kevin Michael Brophy failed to prove that Cardi B misappropriated his image.

After the foreperson read the verdict, the rapper hugged her lawyers and looked cheerful.

Cardi B thanked the jurors, admitting she was “pretty nervous” before hearing the verdict.

Cardi B in Santa Ana, Calif. (Chris Pizzello/AP)

“I didn’t know if I was going to lose or not,” she said after leaving the pitch.

She was invaded by several journalists, photographers and more than 40 high school students who chanted her name.

A fan held up a sign asking if she could take him to his homecoming prom, to which she replied, “Yeah, I’ll see what I can do.”

“I figured if I won, I was going to insult Mr. Brophy. But I don’t have a heart to insult him,” she said.

In the courtroom, Cardi B had a brief cordial conversation with Mr. Brophy and shook his hand.

Mr Brophy sued a year after the rapper’s mixtape was released in 2016.

He called himself a ‘family man with minor children’ and said he had been caused ‘distress and humiliation’ by the artwork – which showed a tattooed man from behind with head between the rapper’s legs inside a limo.

The man’s face is invisible.

Kevin Michael Brophy and his wife Lindsay during the trial
Kevin Michael Brophy and his wife Lindsay (Chris Pizzello/AP)

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

Mr Brophy’s lawyer, A Barry Cappello, said photo-editing software was used to put the back tattoo, which appeared in tattoo magazines, on the male model featured on the cover of the mix tape.

But Cardi B, real name Belcalis Almanzar, disputed the allegations during her testimony earlier in the week – and had such an intense exchange with Mr Cappello that the trial was briefly interrupted by US District Judge Cormac Carney.

Cardi B said she felt Mr Brophy suffered no consequences as a result of the artwork.

She said Mr Brophy legally stalked her for five years – and even said at one point she missed ‘step one’ of her youngest child because of the trial.

Cardi B provided pointed answers to many of Mr. Cappello’s questions.

The lawyer once asked her to calm down, but she strongly rebuffed his claim that she knew about the altered image.

Their heated exchange prompted the judge to send jurors out of the Santa Ana courtroom and told both sides he was considering a mistrial.

Fans of pop star Cardi B wait for her to be released from federal court in Santa Ana, California
Cardi B fans wait for her to be released from federal court in Santa Ana, Calif. (Chris Pizzello/AP)

After a short break, he called the row “unprofessional” and “unproductive”, but allowed questioning to resume, then imposed further restrictions on both sides.

Cardi B said an artist only used a “small portion” of the tattoos without her knowledge.

She previously said the cover – created by Timm Gooden – was a transformative fair use of Mr Brophy’s likeness.

Mr Cappello said Mr Gooden was paid $50 (£44) to create a design but was told to find another tattoo after he had returned an initial draft.

He said Mr Gooden Googled “back tattoos” before finding an image and pasting it on the cover.

Cardi B’s attorney Peter Anderson said Mr. Brophy and the mixtape image were unrelated, noting that the model doesn’t have neck tattoos – which M. Brophy.

“It’s not your client’s back,” Cardi B said of the image, which featured a black model. Mr. Brophy is white.

The rapper pointed out that she posted a photo of the “famous Canadian model” on her social media.

Cardi B leaves federal court
Cardi B during the affair (Chris Pizzello/AP)

“It’s not him,” she continued.

“To me, it doesn’t look like his back at all. The tattoo has been altered, which is protected by the First Amendment.

Cardi B said the image did not hinder Mr. Brophy’s employment with a popular surf and skate apparel brand or his ability to travel the world in search of opportunities.

“He wasn’t fired from his job,” said the rapper, who hinted that the mixtape wasn’t lucrative for her.

“He has not divorced. How did he suffer? He is still in a surf shop at this position. Please tell me how he suffered.

Last month, Cardi B pleaded guilty in a criminal case stemming from two fights at New York strip clubs that forced her to perform 15 days of community service.

Earlier this year, the rapper was awarded $1.25m (£1.1m) in a defamation lawsuit against a celebrity blogger who posted videos falsely claiming she was using cocaine, had contracted herpes and was involved in prostitution.

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