NEW YORK – A Long Island artist sued ex-pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli and others Tuesday over the use of his art in a Wu-Tang Clan album, saying he never expected portraits he posted on a fan blog two years ago to be used without his permission.
Artist Jason Koza said in the Manhattan federal court copyright infringement lawsuit that his portraits of members of the New York-based hip-hop group were used without authorization on an album Shkreli bought for $2 million.
The lawsuit comes after Shkreli’s recent not guilty plea in Brooklyn federal court to securities fraud charges claiming he cheated investors in companies he created.
Shkreli, 32, became widely known last year after a drug company he founded, Turing Pharmaceuticals, spent $55 million for the U.S. rights to sell a life-saving medicine called Daraprim and then raised the price from $13.50 to $750 per pill. In recent testimony before a congressional committee investigating the price of drugs, he remained silent, citing the Fifth Amendment on the advice of his attorney, Benjamin Brafman. Brafman declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Koza, of Copiague, New York, said he learned that some of his portraits were in a 174-page book included with the album titled “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” when he saw a news article after the sole copy of the album was reportedly sold to Shkreli. The lawsuit said Shkreli is prohibited from distributing further copies of the album commercially for 88 years.
He sought unspecified damages from Shkreli, a Wu-Tang leader, a music producer and the album’s auctioneer. Other defendants did not immediately comment.
The lawsuit said that Koza, a musician who works for the Town of Babylon Department of Public Works, primarily creates ink-on-paper portraits of individuals such as David Bowie, Abraham Lincoln, Paul McCartney and Jim Morrison.
His portraits of Wu-Tang Clan members, created in 2013 and 2014, were comic-book-style depictions of the artists with titles such as “Ghostface Killa-Koza,” “Inspecta Deck-Koza” and “U-God-Koza,” the lawsuit said. It noted that he deposited applications to register all nine of his Wu-Tang Clan portraits with the U.S. Copyright Office on Feb. 1.