This is The legal rhythma weekly music law newsletter from Billboard Pro, giving you a one-stop cheat sheet on big news, big decisions, and all the fun stuff in between. This week: Cardi B avoids millions in damages by winning her lawsuit over a sexually explicit album cover, Jay-Z sues to escape his Cognac partnership with Bacardi, Miley Cyrus quickly settles a case over a photo Instagram of itself, and many Following.
THE BIG STORY: Cardi B wins ‘Raunchy’ album cover lawsuit
It all ended pretty quickly.
After nearly five years of litigation, it took just four days of trial and 90 minutes of jury deliberation to clear Cardi B of wrongdoing in a lawsuit brought by Kevin Brophy, a California dad whose back tattoos were unintentionally photoshopped onto a “steamy” Cardi album cover.
Brophy sued for millions in damages in 2017, claiming he was “devastated, humiliated and embarrassed” by the cover of his 2016 mixtape Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 1. The image shows Cardi looking directly into the camera with her legs spread, holding a man’s head while he appears to be performing oral sex on her.
Therein lay the problem: while the actual man in the image was a model who consented to the shoot, a giant tattoo on his back belonged to Brophy. Unbeknownst to Cardi, a freelance graphic designer had typed “back tattoos” into Google Image, found one that suited her (Brophy’s), and photographed it on the model’s body. Apparently, it didn’t occur to him that he would need anyone’s approval to do so.
When the trial began last week, Brophy said the image was a “total slap in the face” and caused him “pain and shame”. Then Wednesday, Cardi herself spoke — repeatedly arguing with Brophy’s attorney (A. Barry Cappello of Cappello & Noel LLP), demanding “receipts” to back up the allegations, and accusing him and his attorneys of “harassing” her in the hope of getting a settlement.
In the end, the jurors were clearly swayed by the arguments of Cardi’s attorneys (Peter Anderson of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP and Lisa F. Moore of Moore Pequignot LLC). Of the other defenses they raised, their main argument was quite simple: that no one would have recognized a relatively unknown man based simply on his back tattoo, and that he had little evidence that anyone recognized him. did.
After the verdict, Cardi took to Twitter to celebrate her court victory: “I just won this case…I’m so emotional right now,” the superstar wrote. “I want to kiss God’s feet right now…..IM BEYOND RECOGNITION!!!!”
Other top stories this week…
HOV WANTS TO GET OUT OF BOOZE BIZ – Jay Z filed a complaint seeking to end his involvement with D’Usse Cognac, a brand he currently owns with spirits giant Bacardi. The rap mogul’s lawyers claimed Bacardi was legally bound to buy out his half of the business, but the company was “undervaluing” him and “blocking” him for a cheaper price. The lawsuit said Jay-Z’s decision to leave D’Usse came amid “growing concern” about how Bacardi was running the business, including supply chain failures and the reluctance to change prices.
HEDLEY SINGER CONVICTED OF SEXUAL ASSAULT – Singer Jacob Hoggard, the former frontman of multi-platinum pop-rock band Hedley, was sentenced in Canada to five years in prison for the sexual assault of an Ottawa woman. The sentence came after a June verdict that found Hoggard guilty of sexual assault causing bodily harm to a woman known only as ‘JB’ in a 2016 incident in a hotel room in Ontario . Hoggard could have received up to 14 years, but prosecutors only asked for six to seven years. His defense attorneys asked for three to four years.
ASTROWORLD VICTIM SETTLE CASE — Lawyers for the family of Axel Acosta, a 21-year-old man who died last year at the Astroworld music festival in Houston, say they have reached an agreement to resolve their legal case against Live Nation and Travis Scott, one of the earliest known settlements in the sprawling disaster litigation. But sources close to Scott were quick to say he had not been involved in the settlement talks, and no official notice was filed on the court docket, leading to uncertainty as to what happened. had really passed. Even if a settlement is reached by Acosta’s family, thousands of other alleged victims are still seeking billions of dollars in damages from Live Nation, Scott and others, claiming they were legally negligent in the how they planned and organized the event.
CHARGES DROP AGAINST LIL DURK — Georgia prosecutors told a judge they would no longer pursue criminal charges against Chicago rapper (real name Durk Derrick Banks) in a 2019 shooting in downtown Atlanta, citing “prosecuting discretion.” Along with the late rapper King Von, Durk was arrested in May 2019 on charges he was involved in shootings near popular Atlanta restaurant The Varsity, which left a victim with a non-fatal gunshot wound to thigh. More than three years later, prosecutors have insisted “there was probable cause for the defendant’s arrest” but that “the district attorney’s decision at this time is not to prosecute.” “.
INSTAGRAM CASE COMPLETE MILEY CYRUS — Just a month after filing, Miley Cyrus settled a copyright lawsuit who accused the star of violating copyright law by posting a paparazzi photo of herself on Instagram. Such allegations are a oddly common legal problem for celebrities, and over the past few years Dua Lipa, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Emily Ratajkowski, LeBron James, Katy Perry and others have all faced similar cases. As with Miley, most lawsuits settle quickly. That’s because it’s actually a pretty simple legal issue: photographers own the copyright to the images they take, and using those photos without a license constitutes infringement. As unfair as it may seem, appearing in an image does not give a celebrity co-ownership of it, or the right to repost it for free.
MUSIC HACKER MAY TWO YEARS IN JAIL — A British hacker who stole unreleased Ed Sheeran and Lil Uzi Vert songs was sentenced in the UK to 18 months in prison. Prosecutors said Adrian Kwiatkowski, 23, hacked into artists’ cloud accounts and sold their songs on the dark web in exchange for $147,000 in cryptocurrency. The case was actually sparked by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which linked the crime to Kwiatkowski and then passed the case on to UK authorities.