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American investor Martin Shkreli accused of copying and sharing one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album

JAKE OFFENHARTZ
June 11, 2024

NEW YORK (AP) -- American investor Martin Shkreli is facing a new lawsuit for allegedly retaining and sharing recordings from a one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album that he was forced to sell following his 2017 conviction on securities fraud charges.

The lawsuit was brought Monday by a cryptocurrency collective, PleasrDAO, which purchased the only known copy of the album from Shkreli for $4.75 million. The album, "Once Upon a Time is Shaolin," has not been released to the public, functioning as a rare contemporary art piece since it was auctioned off by the famed hip-hop group in 2015.

In the lawsuit filed in Brooklyn, New York, federal court, PleasrDAO accused Shkreli of retaining digital copies of the album in violation of their deal and disseminating them widely among his social media followers.

They point to his recent comments on social media boasting of sharing the digital recordings with "thousands of people." Over the weekend, Shkreli played portions of the album during a livestream he hosted on X, which he called a "Wu tang official listening party," according to the lawsuit.

Shkreli did not respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit marks the latest twist for an unusual album created in protest of the devaluation of music in the streaming era, but purchased at auction by Shkreli, a man known for jacking up the price of a life-saving drug and his "Pharma Bro" persona.

Shkreli was later forced to sell the album -- packaged in a hand-crafted silver and nickel case and including a 174-page book wrapped in leather -- following his conviction of security fraud charges.

PleasrDAO said it bought the physical copy of the album and its digital rights over two transactions, in 2021 and 2024. They said they understood that Shkreli had destroyed any trace of the album's files.

"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," the lawsuit states.

As of last month, the album was headed to the Australia's Museum of Old and New Art, which said it planned to host private listening sessions featuring select tracks from the album beginning this week.

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