Martin Shkreli Sued for Copying and Playing Wu-Tang Clan Album Without Permission

Martin Shkreli Sued for Copying and Playing Wu-Tang Clan Album Without Permission

PleasrDAO, the digital art collective that owns Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, claims that the disgraced former pharmaceutical executive lacks the authority to share the album publicly. Shkreli is expectedly remorseless.

Martin Shkreli

Martin Shkreli, October 2023 (Yuki Iwamura/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

PleasrDAO, the digital art collective that owns the one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, has sued the album’s previous owner, disgraced former pharmaceutical executive, Martin Shkreli, for copying the album and playing it for online audiences without permission.

In its lawsuit—filed on June 10 in a Brooklyn federal court and viewed by Pitchfork—PleasrDAO outlines the largely public history of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. Shkreli bought the album in 2015 for $2 million. That same year, he was arrested, and he was convicted, in 2017, of committing securities fraud. Shkreli was sentenced to seven years in federal prison and ordered to forfeit nearly $7.4 million in assets, including the Wu-Tang Clan album. Shkreli was released from prison in 2022, but, while he was incarcerated, PleasrDAO bought Once Upon a Time in Shaolin for $4 million.

According to the lawsuit, Shkreli is still beholden to certain aspects of the forfeiture order, including the requirement that he “take[s] all reasonable steps, and bear all costs necessary, to ensure that all the Substitute Assets [i.e., Once Upon a Time in Shaolin] are preserved and maintained in good and marketable condition, and are not damaged, diluted or diminished in value as a result of any actions taken or not taken by the defendant and his representatives.”

Shkreli, the lawsuit argues, has violated the forfeiture order by making copies of the album and playing it publicly—something he’s readily admitted to have done, including as recently as the day before the lawsuit was filed when he posted on X, “well @pleasrdao blocked me from their account so i think i will play the album on spaces now.”

In the lawsuit, PleasrDAO states, “Any dissemination of the Album’s music to the general public greatly diminishes and/or destroys the Album’s value, and significantly damages PleasrDAO’s reputation and ability to commercially exploit the Album.”

In addition, PleasrDAO argues that Shkreli has gained his own unjust enrichment through the promotion of his allegedly illicit Wu-Tang Clan music files.

PleasrDAO and its lawyer are asking for an inventory of the files that Shkreli has, the seizure of his copies, damages, and more.

In various posts on X, Shkreli has mocked PleasrDAO for suing him and defended his actions. Pitchfork has reached out to PleasrDAO’s attorney, Steven Cooper, for comment and more information.

Beginning on Saturday, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin will be played publicly for an exhibition at Australia’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). A contract stipulates that the album cannot be commercially exploited until 2109, but it can be played at private listening events such as MONA’s.

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