A Copiague artist sued a founder of the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan and former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli on Tuesday claiming copyright infringement over artwork that appeared without his permission on the sole copy of the group’s album that sold for $2 million, according to court papers.
Jason Koza, 34, who “long admired” Wu-Tang Clan’s music, submitted “comic-book style” digital images of each of the nine members to a web site that solicited artwork around late 2013 and early 2014, the suit said.
Koza and a producer of the album - “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin,” - emailed back and forth in April 2014 about the album, but Koza “never granted a license for his works to be copied or displayed anywhere other than the...website,” the suit says.
Last month, Koza learned in a news article that Shkreli paid $2 million for the album, which included a 174-page leather-bound book containing Koza’s “Wu-Tang Clan Portraits,” the suit said.
“Mr Koza’s works were used without permission and we’re trying to get redress for him,” said Koza’s attorney Peter Scoolidge of Manhattan.
The federal suit seeks unspecified damages. It names Robert Diggs, of Los Angeles, a Wu-Tang founder and album producer who also goes by the name “the Rza,” Padddle8 NY LLC, a New York online auction house where Shkreli bought the album and Tarik Azzougarh, of Morocco, another producer.
Paddle8 declined to comment. Shkreli couldn’t be reached. A representative for Diggs couldn’t be reached.
Shkreli, the former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, appeared before a Congressional panel this month, refusing to answer questions about his dramatic price hike of a life-saving pill. He is also out on $5 million bail on unrelated securities fraud charges.
The suit says the defendants infringed on Koza’s rights - including his right of reproduction and distribution - by copying the images, incorporating them in the album, and selling the album to a third party without permission.
Shkreli also allowed at least three of the images to be displayed in a Jan. 29 Vice.com news article without permission, the suit contends.
Shkreli has said he doesn’t intend to listen to the album but purchased it to “keep it from the people,” according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Wu-Tang Clan, the popular hip-hop group, emerged from Staten Island in the 1990s.
In the email to Koza from one of the album’s producers, Azzougarh, in April, 2014, he mentioned the new “one copy album” he was working on with Diggs. “Don’t wanna ask you anything until after a meeting I have on thursday with some important folks,” Azzougarh wrote, according to the suit.
“Looking forward to hearing from you!” wrote back Koza, an employee with the Town of Babylon Department of Public Works, the suit says.
Azzougarh emailed Koza two days after the Vice.com article. “Let me know if you want to skype discussing the use of your drawings,” Azzougarh wrote, according to the suit.
But the two never explicitly spoke about permission to use Koza’s images, the suit says.