Kendrick Lamar

Rapper Kendrick Lamar faces allegations of copyright infringement by an African artist who alleges he misappropriated her copyrighted artwork for his music video, “All the Stars”.

On Saturday, a lawyer for Lina Iris Viktor, a British-Liberian artist, sent a letter to Lamar and label head, Anthony Tiffith at Top Dawg Entertainment, detailing the copyright violation of a painting in her series “Constellations.”

According to the NY Times, Ms. Viktor had been approached twice by a public relations firm — once in Nov. 2016 and again in Dec. 2017 — inquiring about the rights to use her artwork to promote a movie, then titled “Motherland”.

The public relations firm DDA contacted Ms. Viktor’s art dealer Mariane Ibrahim-Abdi Lenhardt, on behalf of Marvel and Disney Studios. The firm had asked several artists to create artwork inspired by the Black Panther comic book character for use in promoting the film, including a music video and posts on social media.
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Ms. Viktor considered the offer but ultimately rejected DDA’s demand that she sign over her rights to the artwork, “thereby foregoing all her artistic control,” according to the letter.

“We’re in an age when no is supposed to mean no in whatever field you’re in,” Christopher Robinson, Viktor’s attorney, said in a telephone interview with The Times. “It’s outrageous that they’re taking advantage of her.”

“All the Stars” music video received rave reviews for the gorgeous visuals, but the song was not a smash hit and it currently sits at #54 on the Billboard chart.

Ms. Viktor said she found out from friends that her artwork was used in Lamar’s music video.

Although the painting in the music video was not an exact replica of “Constellations,” there are enough elements within the painting to be confused for Ms. Viktor’s work.

“It’s really tricky because style is not protected,” said Nancy E. Wolff, a copyright lawyer who currently serves as the president of the Copyright Society of the USA, “but I can see why everyone assumed this artist was involved.”

She added that the gold-on-black elements of Ms. Viktor’s work “is so strong, it’s just going to look like it’s the same.”

Ms. Viktor and her art dealer were not impressed by Disney and Marvel Studios’ plans to promote the Black Panther movie using her artwork.

“We were not interested in giving exclusivity for promotion of a [movie] campaign,” Ms. Ibrahim said in an interview. “My main objective was to bring that work to the art community, collectors and institutions.”

She added: “Cultural appropriation is something that continually happens to African-American artists, and I want to make a stand.”