Martin Shkreli Accused of Copying Rare Wu-Tang Clan Album in Lawsuit

June 11, 2024
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Convicted pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli was hit with a lawsuit over his own claims that he copied and distributed the one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin

The suit was filed by PleasrDAO, a digital art collective that purchased the album from Shkreli in 2021 after Shkreli was ordered to fork it over to cover a $7.4 million forfeiture tied to his 2017 fraud conviction. (Shkreli purchased the album for $2 million; PleasrDAO paid double that.) According to the lawsuit, Shkreli violated the terms of both the original purchase agreement and the forfeiture order by allegedly making and retaining a digital copy of the album, playing it during his live streams, and sending it to others. 

Shkreli was released from prison on May 18, 2022, and within a month, according to the lawsuit, he admitted during a livestream that he was playing Once Upon a Time in Shaolin for his followers. “Yeah, that’s the Wu-Tang album for all you crazy streamer people,” Shkreli allegedly said. 

A few days later, on June 22, 2022, Shkreli allegedly admitted to still having a copy of the album, adding, “I was playing it on YouTube the other night even though somebody paid $4 million for it.” Then, on a June 30, 2022 stream, Shkreli allegedly played portions of the album again and said, “Of course I made MP3 copies, they’re like hidden in safes all around the world… I’m not stupid. I don’t buy something for two million dollars just so I can keep one copy.” 

Then, earlier this year, Shkreli appeared to troll Pleasr directly. After the collective posted a photo of the album on Twitter, Shkreli allegedly posted numerous replies like: “LOL I have the mp3s you moron”; “I literally play it in my discord all the time”; “this thread is about someone listening to a CD >5000 people have…”; and “yeah I have the music, sold the plastic.” In response to some folks in the same thread expressing a desire to hear the album, Shkrelli allegedly said, “i can just upload the mp3s if you want? email addy?”

Impressively, there was more. In a YouTube video from this past May, Shkreli said he “burned the album and sent it to like, 50 different chicks,” before quipping, “Do you know how many blowjobs that album got me?” Not long after, he posted on X, “look out for a torrent im sick of this shit @PleasrDAO.” And then, as recently as this past Sunday, June 9, Shkreli allegedly played the album during a “Spaces” session on X to an estimated 4,900 listeners. 

Pleasr are asking the court to make Shkreli destroy his copies of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin and forfeit any money he may have made from sharing the album. They’re also seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

Shkreli, unsurprisingly, was not phased by the lawsuit. After Pleasr posted about the complaint on X, Shkreli replied, “PleasrDAO never voted or discussed this litigation with members. You will easily lose this legal retardation. The pleasr members don’t support this gayness. See you in court!”

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Shkreli did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for further comment. A rep for the Wu-Tang Clan also did not immediately return a request for comment.

The lawsuit comes a few days before the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania, Australia, opens an exhibition that will feature Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, on loan from Pleasr. The exhibit will run June 15 through 24, and selections from the album will be played during 30-minute listening sessions offered twice a day. 



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