Martin Shkreli shouldn’t be held accountable for possessing copyrighted material he purchased with the notorious $2 million one-copy-only Wu-Tang Clan album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin because a) he didn’t know it was there, b) he bought the album, not the artwork, c) his ownership, knowingly or otherwise, is covered by fair use laws.
The answer? According to his attorney, all of the above, more or less.
As mentioned earlier this week the smug-faced CEO, who not only hiked up pharmaceutical prices for very sick people last year and then smirked and snarked his way through a US congressional hearing but got into a ridiculous tiff with Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah via YouTube videos, is being sued along with the band’s producer Tarik “Cilvaringz” Azzaougarh and Paddle8, the high-end auction site that handled the sale of the only copy of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin in existence. New York City-based artist Jason Koza created artwork for the website WuDisciples two years ago, some of which ended up in the 174-page booklet that accompanied the album when it was sold late last year. Koza’s copyright infringement lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages from Shkreli, Azzougarh and Wu-Tang leader RZA.
In an interview with Billboard, Peter Scoolidge, Koza’s attorney, says his client’s position is such that “we have properly alleged a claim of infringement against Mr. Shkreli,” because the inclusion of the illustrations in the book that Shkreli now owns makes him a party to violating Koza’s copyright.
Shkreli’s attorney, John Wait, has filed a motion asking for his client to be removed from the lawsuit, stating in an email to Billboard: “In our view plaintiff has not alleged a claim for infringement against Mr. Shkreli. As you may have seen, plaintiff fundamentally changed his claim against Mr. Shkreli when he filed his amended complaint. Specifically in the original complaint plaintiff alleged: ‘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.'”
Wait goes on to say that the amended compliant modified the claim from “alleged infringement of his right to public display” to an infringement to his “right to distribute which are two different claims under the Copyright Act,” Billboard reports.
Some of Wait’s arguments hinge upon a previous incident, in which Allie Conti, a reporter for Vice, saw images from the book as Shkreli played it for her. That does not constitute a public display, he says: “allegedly ‘permitting’ a reporter to copy or display a work does not state a claim for direct infringement.”
Scoolidge has until April 15 to reply to Wait’s motion to remove Shkreli from the copyright infringement lawsuit.