Although Marvel’s Black Panther—and Kendrick Lamar’s accompanying soundtrack album for the film—have drawn strong reviews and massive box office takings over the last week, there’s at least one artist who’s unhappy with her unwanted (alleged) association with the film. Per Pitchfork, British-Liberian artist Lina Viktor is suing Lamar, SZA, and Top Dawg Entertainment for what she sees as clear plagiarism of her work in the video for the duo’s “All The Stars.”
Viktor says Marvel Studios first contacted her in 2016, and then again earlier this year, about the possibility of either using works from her Constellations series—which feature “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”—for Black Panther’s set, or possibly commissioning her to make a new work to promote the film. Viktor ultimately declined, which, she says, explains why she was shocked when friends began forwarding her the video for Lamar and SZA’s song, asking if she’d ended up working on the project.
The moment in question comes at 2:59 in the video, as Lamar wanders through a hallway covered in murals that do appear to closely resemble larger versions of Viktor’s work. Her lawsuit also contains a number of comparison photos of the two pieces, some of which are essentially indistinguishable to the naked eye. (You can see more detailed pictures of the three Constellations pieces at her website.)
Viktor’s legal team pulled no punches with the language in their suit:
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. 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.
In contrast to his message in the song’s lyrics that “I hate people that feel entitled,” and that “I want my credit if I am winning or I am losing,” Defendant Lamar, who is the public face of the Infringing Video and is quick to take credit for it in public statements, has sought to distance himself from any responsibility for the video as an infringement of Plaintiff’s rights.
According to The New York Times, Viktor is currently seeking “a minimum of a public apology for the unauthorized use and a license fee.”