The British Liberian artist Lina Iris Viktor alleges that her work was stolen for Kendrick Lamar’s music video for “All the Stars,” a song by Lamar and SZA featured on the soundtrack to Black Panther, the highly anticipated new superhero movie. According to the New York Times, Viktor is alleging a copyright violation of the gold-on-black pattern used in her series “Constellations.” A similar design appears in Lamar’s music video for nineteen seconds, at around the three-minute mark. Lamar was chosen by Black Panther director Ryan Coogler to produce the movie’s official soundtrack, which includes songs by Lamar, SZA, the Weeknd, and Future, and was released on Friday along with the music video for “All the Stars.”
A letter sent by Viktor’s lawyer to Anthony Tiffith, the founder of Lamar’s Top Dawg Entertainment label, argued that the pattern in the video “incorporates not just the immediately-identifiable and unique look of her work, but also many of the specific copyrightable elements in the ‘Constellations’ series of paintings, including stylized motifs of mythical animals, gilded geometric forms on a black background, and distinctively textured areas and patterns, arrayed in a grid-like arrangement of forms.” The letter stated that Viktor was willing to discuss a resolution consisting of a public apology and a license fee.
According to her representatives, the artist was approached multiple times by Marvel Studios about using her work, most recently last December, when she was asked to create artwork inspired by the Black Panther character and enter an exclusive license agreement. Viktor declined, partly because “Constellations” is going to be featured in the Armory Show in March. Her installation there will continue “Black Exodus: Act I Materia Prima,” her debut solo exhibition at London’s Amar Gallery last fall, which examined narratives of the African diaspora and race, as well as the definition of “blackness.”
“Why would they do this? It’s an ethical issue, because what the whole film purports is that it’s about black empowerment, African excellencethat’s the whole concept of the story,” Viktor said. “And at the same time they’re stealing from African artists.”