Earlier this month, British-Liberian artist Lina Iris Viktor accused Kendrick Lamar of unlawfully using her gold-patterned series of paintings titled Constellations in his “All The Stars” music video, the lead track from the recently released Black Panther: The Album. Viktor said she had been contacted twice by Black Panther representatives asking permission to feature her work, but ultimately refused in order to keep creative control. When the artist saw her work seemingly being displayed in the disputed music video, she sent a letter to Lamar and his label Top Dawg Entertainment, calling the use of her patented gold patterns in the SZA co-led music video “willful and egregious.”
It seems that Viktor has now seriously raised the stakes by suing both Lamar and SZA for copyright infringement. Viktor’s lawyer, Christopher Robinson, noted in the aforementioned letter to TDE that the artist was “willing to discuss a resolution of all her claims, consisting at a minimum of a public apology for the unauthorized use and a license fee.” Now, in a statement to Pitchfork, Robinson reveals, “We tried to resolve this without litigation. Now that we are in Court, we are confident that Ms. Viktor will prevail.” TMZ reports that in addition to damages, the artist is also asking that Lamar and SZA stop using her work to promote the song. On Monday, Viktor took to social media to address her fans, posting a powerful message on her Facebook and Instagram, writing: “Feel reassured—I am seeking justice.”
Thank you to everyone for the overwhelming support and messages over the past week. I apologize for not being able to respond to each person, but know that I have read and truly appreciate your powerful words of encouragement. Feel reassured – I am seeking justice. Back to what was scheduled prior to this disruption – I have been in the studio for the past few months focusing on my upcoming exhibition at The Armory Show with Mariane Ibrahim Gallery. I am very excited to share my new work and reveal the installation we have in store. There will be updates via @marianeibrahimgallery this coming week. @thearmoryshow March 8 – 11, 2018 New York
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While Viktor’s legal staff appear to be confident that the court will rule in their favor, Nancy E. Wolff, a copyright lawyer who serves as the president of the Copyright Society of the USA, spoke to the New York Times when this story first broke, suggesting that proving copyright infringement might be harder than one might think. “It’s really tricky because style is not protected,” Wolff said, “but I can see why everyone assumed this artist was involved.” The copyright lawyer also said that the music video’s directors are likely to argue that the scenes found in “All The Stars” are not exact copies, but only appear to be because the gold-on-black visuals in Viktor’s work are “so strong.”
Meanwhile, Black Panther continues to thrive as a groundbreaking movie. Its historic debut made it the second-highest grossing four-day domestic opening of all time, beating Star Wars: The Last Jedi by taking in an astounding $242 million over the President’s Day weekend.
Lamar’s alleged copyright violation is a 19-second-long segment which begins at the 2:59 mark of the “All the Stars” music video—watch it again right here.