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Cardi B
via Instagram (@iamcardib)

How a Cardi B lawsuit could change the tattoo industry forever


TextGünseli Yalcinkaya

The rapper has been facing a lawsuit over the appearance of a tattoo on the cover of her 2016 debut mixtape Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 1

Cardi B is no stranger to controversy (see: “WAP”), but a new lawsuit might be her strangest yet.

The rapper has been facing a legal battle from the model Kevin Brody Jr. over the appearance of his back tattoo on the cover of her 2016 debut mixtape Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 1, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Now, she’s set to face a jury in what appears to become a landmark case for tattoo copyright law.

Brophy alleges the cover – which shows a man with a tattoo of a tiger fighting a snake giving Cardi head – misappropriated his likeness in “a misleading, offensive, humiliating and provocatively sexual way” in order to launch the rapper’s career. 

Due to the overtly sexual context of the image, Brophy's lawsuit includes a false light claim, which is a cross between privacy invasion and defamation. Cardi argued that the image is covered by transformative fair use – when an image is significantly changed so it’s no longer an imitation – but a judge has since rejected this argument.

The judge pointed to a testimony from Timm Gooden who created the mixtape cover. Gooden had been paid $50 to mock-up a quick design and was told to find a tattoo off the internet to cover the back of the male model. Gooden admitted he googled ‘back tattoos’, found an image, and pasted it onto the cover.

Brophy is seeking over $1.5 million in damages. A judge has yet to make a decision on the case.

Cardi’s prospective trial could result in a change in the law surrounding tattoo copyright. This would include exploring the legal repercussions of tattoo depiction in the media and whether the copyright should be accredited to the tattoo artist or the wearer.

While Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 1 case seems to be the first of its kind in the music industry, a similar case, involving a tattoo artist suing the WWE for copying a wrestler’s tattoo in a video game, is currently going to trial. No doubt the media buzz surrounding Cardi’s case will contribute to any resulting changes in the way tattoo copyright law is handled moving forward.

In other tattoo-related news, we explore the dark side of the tattoo industry, from Nazi symbols to sexual assault. Find out more here.

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