SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) – Cardi B had a heated exchange Wednesday with the lawyer of a man who claims the rapper misused his persona for her sexually suggestive mixtape cover.
The Grammy winner has battled Kevin Michael Brophy’s attorney, A. Barry Cappello, over his accusation in a $5 million copyright infringement lawsuit in Southern California federal court. Brophy claims he did not consent to such use of his likeness in the 2016 artwork – which featured a tattooed man from behind with his head between the rapper’s legs.
But Cardi B pointed out that the man’s face is not visible. Cappello asked the rapper to calm down, but she barked at his feeling that she knew about the photo-editing software used to put the back tattoo — which appeared in tattoo magazines — on the male model used on the cover of the mixtape.
“That’s not your client’s back,” she said of the photo, which features a black model posing for the photos, while Brophy is white. The rapper said she posted a photo of what she calls a “famous Canadian model.”
Cardi B, whose real name is Belcalis Almanzar, said the artist only used “a small portion” of the tattoos without her knowledge. She previously said the cover image – created by Timm Gooden – was a transformative and fair use of Brophy’s character.
Cappello said Gooden was paid $50 to create the design, but was then told to find another tattoo after submitting the initial draft. He said Gooden Googled “back tattoos” before finding the image and pasting it on the cover.
Her attorney, Peter Anderson, said Brophy and the mixtape image are unrelated. He said the model did not have neck tattoos, which Brophy does.
“It’s not him,” the rapper said. “It doesn’t look like his back at all to me. The tattoo was modified, which is protected by the First Amendment.”
The trial began on Tuesday, and Brophy said he was humbled by the lavish artwork.
But Cardi B disputed that Brophy’s life was disrupted and that he suffered any distress. She said the image has not hindered Brophy’s employment with the popular surf and skate clothing brand or his ability to travel the world in search of opportunities.
“He didn’t get fired,” Cardi B said, implying that the mixtape wasn’t profitable for her. “He’s not divorced. How did he suffer? He’s still in the surf shop at his job. Please tell me how he suffered.”
Cardi B said she feels like Brophy has been constantly harassing her for the past five years. She said she missed a special moment with her youngest child, who turned one last month.
“I have empathy for people,” she said. “I cared about people. I feel like I was taken advantage of. I missed my baby’s first step by being here.”
Cardi B continued to defend herself, while a pacing Cappello continued to ask her tough questions. Their exchange was enough for Judge Cormac Carney to step in and send the jurors out of the courtroom.
Carney told both the prosecution and the defense that he was considering a mistrial. The referee took a short break before returning and deciding to limit the reviews from both sides.
“We’re at a point where it’s just not productive,” he said. “We’re arguing with each other. It’s unprofessional and our (U.S. District Court) brand 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 never heard back. The rapper said she did not see the letter.
At one point, Cardi B said she doesn’t check her mailbox because it’s for “old people” — a statement that drew laughs.
When Cardi B left the courtroom, she was swarmed by about 30 high school students trying to take selfies with her. As the rapper walked towards her vehicle with security, she smiled and waved before telling them she would react more after the trial.
Last month, Cardi B pleaded guilty to a felony charge stemming from a pair of brawls at New York strip clubs that required her to serve 15 days of community service. Earlier this year, the rapper was awarded $1.25 million in a defamation lawsuit against a celebrity blogger who posted videos falsely claiming she used cocaine, contracted herpes and engaged in prostitution.
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