Man sues Cardi B for $5m for using his back tattoo in lewd cover art

A “man of faith” is suing Cardi B for superimposing his back tattoo on to a male model who seemingly performs oral sex on the rapper on the cover of her debut mixtape.

Kevin Michael Brophy is suing the Grammy-winning musician in a copyright-infringement lawsuit in federal court in southern California, seeking $5m in damages. Belcalis Almánzar, the rapper’s real name, was in court and is expected to testify during the trial.

The cover art for Gangsta Bitch Music Vol 1, the rapper’s debut mixtape, was displayed to jurors. Almánzar is shown sitting in the back of a car, staring into camera, drinking a bottle of Corona beer while a man with a back tattoo has his head between her open legs.

Brophy’s lawyer A Barry Cappello told the court that his client’s life had been “disrupted” and that the image had also disturbed his wife, who initially questioned if her husband was the model on the cover art.

Speaking to the court, Brophy said he had once considered his back tattoo, which shows a tiger battling a serpent, to be a “Michelangelo piece” that has since become “raunchy and disgusting”.

“It looks like I’m giving oral sex to somebody that’s not my wife, somebody that’s not my partner, and an image that I never signed off on, ever,” Brophy told the court. “Being a father of two and a devoted husband and a man of faith as well, this goes against everything that I stand for, and I would never ever sign off on something like this.”

Almánzar’s lawyer, Peter Anderson, denied that Brophy’s image had been used for the cover art, noting the model in the image did not have tattoos on his neck whereas Brophy does. “Brophy’s face wasn’t on the mixtape,” Anderson said during his opening statement. “She was already popular. It has nothing to do with Brophy.”

Brophy countered that everyone who knows him believed him to be on the mixtape cover. Defence filings pointed out that the model who posed for the photos was Black, while Brophy is white.

“For me, it was something I took a lot of pride in,” Brophy said about his tattoo. “Now, that image feels devalued. I feel robbed. I feel completely disregarded. There’s a lot of things I would like to be spending time on. But the only way to get this removed was to come here to this courtroom.”

Timm Gooden, who created the mixtape cover art, was paid $50 to create the design, according to Brophy’s lawyer. He was told to find another tattoo after turning in an initial draft and Googled “back tattoos” before finding Brophy’s.

Almánzar said Gooden only used a “small portion” of the tattoos without her knowledge. She previously said the cover art was transformative fair use of Brophy’s likeness.

Testimony is set to last four days and deliberations are due to begin on Friday.

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