Lina Iris Viktor is suing Universal, Kendrick Lamar, SZA and others, over the “All The Stars” music video where she claims her paintings are shown. “Viktor alleges that a 19-second part of the Video infringes on her artwork by displaying, without a license, distinctive paintings of Viktor’s, which are based on ancient Egyptian and African symbolism and feature gold leaf and black paint.” Her complaint alleges three counts: copyright infringement, vicarious copyright infringement and contributory copyright infringement.  She is seeking a permanent injunction along with actual damages and indirect profits stemming from (1) damages to her reputation and (2) profits directly and indirectly attributable to the music video.

In response, the defendants moved for a partial summary judgment against Viktor’s claims, but in an opinion delivered by the court on October 24, 2018, the motion was denied. The partial summary judgment motion focused on two arguments. Under 17 U.S.C. Section 504(b) of the Copyright Act, the copyright owner is entitled to profits “of the infringer that are attributable to the infringement.” Defendants deny that Viktor has met its burden in demonstrating a relationship between the profits of the music video and its use of her work.  The second argument surrounds Viktor’s request for reputational damages. Viktor “said that the video appropriated and misinterpreted [her] highly feminized” paintings therefore having a reputational effect. Since the Copyright Act does not explicitly offer recovery for this, defendants argue that Viktor’s request should be dismissed. However, the court has refused to make any decision on the merit or lack of merit of Viktor’s claims until “a full factual record has been developed in discovery.” It stated that the motion was premature, and the defendants can file again, if they deem appropriate, at the end of discovery.

Katherine Khazal is an Entertainment Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2021).

Image: Kendrick Lamar: The DAMN. Tour @ TD Garden (Boston, MA), Kenny Sun, CC BY 2.0

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