Artist Wants Public Apology, Fee from Kendrick Lamar After She Claims He Used Her Artwork Without Her Permission

"…at the same time they’re stealing from African artists.”

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An artist is accusing Kendrick Lamar of using her artwork in his new “Black Panther: The Album” single, “All of the Stars” despite her telling him not to twice.

Lina Iris Viktor, a British-Liberian artist, says Lamar’s label Top Dawg Entertainment violated the copyright to her 24K gold acrylic painting series, “Constellations.” Her lawyer, Christopher Robinson, sent a letter saying as much to Top Dawg head Anthony Tiffith on Saturday, Feb. 10, according to The New York Times.

While it notes that Viktor is willing “to discuss a resolution of all her claims, consisting at a minimum of a public apology for the unauthorized use and a license fee,” it also states “the infringement of Ms. Viktor’s rights is willful and egregious.”

Lamar and Tiffith, who were contacted by Marvel to head the “Black Panther” soundtrack, along with Marvel’s parent company, Disney, did not comment on the allegations. However, on Sunday, Feb. 11, Lamar gave thanks for getting the opportunity to produce the album.

But Viktor isn’t feeling as thankful, as the letter explains there’s a 19-second portion of the video beginning at the 2:59 mark “that 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.”

“Why would they do this?” Viktor told The Times. “It’s an ethical issue, because what the whole film purports is that it’s about Black empowerment, African excellence — that’s the whole concept of the story. And at the same time, they’re stealing from African artists.”

Viktor was initially contacted by a Marvel set decorator assistant for permission to use her artwork for the film in November 2016. She was ready to consider it but discussions ended when she found the financial and artistic terms unsuitable.

Then, in December 2017, Marvel and Disney’s public relations firm, DDA, got in touch with Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, which represents Viktor. The firm wanted artists to create work inspired by the Black Panther that would be used to promote the film.

It requested the Viktor “enter into an exclusive license for the proposed artworks, thereby forgoing all artistic control.” This, according to her lawyer’s letter, was partly because the “Constellations” series was in development for the March Armory Show, which is “a solo exhibition in a major art fair that would be a milestone in her career.”

And although Viktor requests a fee for the alleged copyright infringement, she says it’s more about principle.

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

Meanwhile, “Black Panther: The Album,” which coincides with the Marvel film premiering in theatres Friday, Feb. 16, is on track to debut at no. 1 on the Billboard 200.

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