Wu-Tang Clan's $2 Million Album a Target in Copyright Lawsuit

Drawings of Raekwon, Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Inspecta Deck were allegedly reproduced in what landed in the hands of Martin Shkreli.
Andrew Burton/Getty Images; Newscom
Martin Shkreli

Once upon a time a supposedly "great artist" named Jason Koza sued pharma bro Martin Shkreli over a Wu-Tang Clan album. In the lawsuit, Koza claimed copyright infringement, and although there wasn't too much copying, there was enough, and the allegations involved something bought for $2 million and a man who inspires quite a bit of schadenfreude these days.

Shkreli, of course, the man who jacked up the price of the AIDS drug Daraprim to $750 a tablet, was charged by the feds with securities fraud and invoked the Fifth Amendment during a Congressional hearing, even refusing to confirm to lawmakers that Wu-Tang Clan was the one to sell him the sole copy of its latest album, titled Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.

He'll win no sympathy anywhere, though it must be noted that Koza's lawsuit against him comes down to a questionable legal proposition spelled out in a single sentence.

In the lawsuit, which also targets Wu-Tang Clan leader Robert "RZA" Diggs, Koza says he's a fan of the hip-hop group and created portraits of each of the members. The plaintiff also says he submitted digital images for public display at WuDisciples.blogspot.com.

The $2 million Wu-Tang Clan album came with a 174-page book, according to the complaint, and within that book, was a reproduction of Koza's portraits.

Koza says he never granted a license.

Wu-Tang Clan sold its album to Shkreli early last year after holding an auction at Paddle8, and Koza says he saw pictures of what was in the book in an article published on Vice.com. "The pictures in the article revealed that at least three of Mr. Koza’s Wu-Tang Clan Portraits were reproduced in the book: 'Raekwon-Koza,' 'Ol’ Dirty Bastard-Koza,' and 'Inspecta Deck-Koza,'" states the complaint.

Tarik Azzougarh (a rapper, manager and producer associated with the group) is said to have contacted Koza about the album, although the conversation only got to the point of addressing the use of images a couple weeks ago.

So how exactly is Shkreli supposedly liable for copyright infringement?

According to the lawsuit, "Mr. Shkreli has infringed Mr. Koza’s exclusive right of public display by permitting at least three of the nine Wu-Tang Clan Portraits to be displayed to the public in a news article without Mr. Koza’s permission or license."

That. Is. It.

Koza also tacks on copyright claims against Diggs, Azzougarh and Paddle8 without identifying much about their personal responsibility for what happened, plus tries to concoct a theory that there was some sort of implied contract for a license made upon WuDisciples.blogspot.com soliciting its readers: "Every Thursday we will be posting up pics of Wu-Tang artwork from fans, artists and aliens. If you have artwork you would like to share, please email us at: WuArtTats@gmail.com.”

Luckily, you can't be sued for this.

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