Copyright infringement lawsuits against music stars seem to get stranger with each passing day. Though it’s hard to believe that any could be stranger than the lawsuit Kevin Brophy Jr. has filed against famed rapper Cardi B.
What’s strange about this infringement lawsuit is that it’s not even about music.
Brophy is suing Cardi B for $5 million because of the cover image of a mixtape she made in 2016 called “Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 1.” The image depicted an unidentified man performing oral sex on the rapper (see below). On the back of this man was a distinctive tattoo of a tiger and a snake fighting, which Brophy insists is his and his alone.
Legal representatives of Cardi B had been trying to get the lawsuit dismissed in U.S. District Court, insisting that the cover image was protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney disagreed on August 22nd. He not only dismissed the motion but indicated that the question of whether the cover image was indeed protected by the First Amendment was something for a jury to decide (a full copy of the judge’s order can be found here).
Brophy’s lawsuit against Cardi B has two dimensions. First, he is suing the rapper for using his likeness without consent. He states that his tattoo is so unique that people recognize him just from seeing it. But the second dimension of the lawsuit claims that Cardi B portrayed him in a false light by insinuating that he had sexual relations with her.
So far, Cardi B has not officially responded to the judge’s decision. But based on her deposition in the case, she is understandably not pleased by the lawsuit.
Using very colorful language, she indicated that the lawsuit was not worth her time, especially considering the fact that the mixtape in question earned less than $1 million. She further claimed that the lawsuit was unnecessarily taking time away from her child, categorically calling the whole thing “bullshit”.
This is not the first time a tattoo has triggered an infringement lawsuit. In 2011, the artist who created former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson’s famous facial tattoo sued Warner Bros. after a character in the film Hangover 2 sported a similar tattoo. That lawsuit was eventually settled out of court.