Kendrick Lamar Denies Ripping Off the Artist Who’s Suing Him Over His ‘Black Panther’ Music Video

The recent Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar is denying artist Lina Iris Viktor’s claim that his music video for “All the Stars,” from the soundtrack for the film Black Panther, copied her “Constellations” series of black and gold paintings.

The musician and his co-defendants insist in court papers filed last week that they did not rip off the New York-based artist’s work. Furthermore, they argue that even if they did, it would constitute fair use and didn’t damage Viktor anyway.

Viktor, who showed with Seattle’s Mariane Ibrahim at this year’s Armory Show in New York, first filed her complaint against the singer in February. She says that Black Panther and later Marvel’s PR team approached her on two separate occasions about using her artwork for the film and related promotional events. Both times, Viktor turned them down. Her complaint calls the music video’s use of her artwork “an egregious violation of federal law and an affront to the Artist, her livelihood, her legacy, and to artists everywhere.”

Side-by-side comparisons of Lina Iris Viktor's "Constallations" paintings and Kendrick Lamar and SZA's "All the Stars" music video for Black Panther. Images courtesy of Viktor's legal complaint.

Side-by-side comparisons of Lina Iris Viktor’s “Constallations” paintings and Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s “All the Stars” music video for Black Panther. Images via Viktor’s complaint.

Side-by-side comparisons of Lina Iris Viktor's "Constallations" paintings and Kendrick Lamar and SZA's "All the Stars" music video for <em>Black Panther</em>. Images courtesy of Viktor's legal complaint.

Side-by-side comparisons of Lina Iris Viktor’s “Constallations” paintings and Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s “All the Stars” music video for Black Panther. Images via Viktor’s complaint.

“The Infringing Video and the Movie promotes (and profits from) themes of black and female empowerment and the end of racist and gender exploitation, themes particularly topical in the current environment,” Viktor’s complaint says. “Yet, in a bitter irony, the Defendants have ignored the wishes of the Artist, herself a Black African woman, whose life’s work is founded on an examination of the political and historical preconceptions of ‘blackness,’ liberation, and womanhood.”

“All of the Stars,” released in January by Lamar and SZA, is the lead single from Black Panther: The Album – Music From and Inspired By. Lamar produced the album with Anthony Tiffith, the head of his record label, Top Dawg Entertainment, and he writes and performs on many of the 14 tracks.

SZA and Kendrick Lamar perform onstage at Coachella 2018. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella.

According to the complaint, the music video “intentionally copies the Original Works and is a blatant attempt to appropriate not only the immediately-identifiable and unique look and feel of the Original Works, but also many of the specific copyrightable elements in the Original Works, 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.”

A side-by-side comparison included in the filing shows the exact patterns and shapes can be found in both the artwork and the music video. Viktor is seeking damages, and to prevent Lamar from continuing to distribute the music video.

As of press time, artnet News could not reach lawyers for Lamar or Viktor.

See the music video below. The segment allegedly based on Viktor’s artwork begins at the 2:59 mark and is approximately 19 seconds long.

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