British-Liberian artist Lina Iris Viktor and hip-hop artists Kendrick Lamar and SZA have seemingly reached a settlement in the lawsuit Viktor filed against Lamar and SZA concerning their music video ‘All the Stars.’ The song featured in portions of ‘Black Panther,’ which has grossed more than $1 billion worldwide since its release in early 2018. Viktor filed the copyright lawsuit in February for damages citing that images in from the music video were ‘so clearly a copy of the artist’s work’ and the resemblances are blatant.
On December 20th, however, a settlement agreement was reached in principle and it appears to have been accepted by both parties since. According to Viktor’s Seattle-based gallerist Mariane Ibrahim-Lenhardt, the visual artist ‘is happy that [the dispute] has been resolved, she can now return her focus to her art practice and her upcoming exhibitions in the future.’
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Viktor’s series Constellation is nothing if not striking. Gold geometric patterns create Klimt-like texture against flat black backgrounds. In some, women are incorporated in the design adding another layer of context and message. African themes merge with iconographic symbols commenting on the identity of black women.
During the making of ‘Black Panther,’ Viktor was approached twice by movie representatives asking if they could include her work in the movie or to promote the film. Viktor ultimately declined the offers as they were too restrictive and did not meet her needs. Viktor’s decline was seemingly ignored, though. Approximately three minutes into the music video for ‘All the Stars,’ Lamar is shown walking through a series of women dressed head to toe in metallic gold set against a backdrop that is eerily similar to Viktor’s work. The shot spans about 19 seconds as the camera pans across the rapper and posed women featuring symbols and patterns all but identical to Viktor’s work.
When Viktor filed the lawsuit in February, she told the New York Times: ‘Why would they do this? It’s an ethical issue because what the whole film purports is that it’s about black empowerment [and] African excellence. That’s the whole concept of the story.’
The official complaints of the lawsuit stated: ‘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.’
It is hoped that the outcome of the lawsuit that favoured Viktor and led to a settlement will enforce the liberties and artistic property of artists like Viktor. Ibrahim-Lenhardt hopes the suit will exemplify the importance of protecting artists’ creations in the future.
‘Black Panther’ continues to be a cultural phenomenon and ‘All the Stars’ has been nominated for four awards, including two 2019 Grammy Awards for record and song of the year. Meanwhile, Viktor’s debut solo show at the New Orleans Museum of Art will continue through January 6th with her next exhibition set for August in London.