Megadeth are now facing legal action from the cover artist for their latest album, The Sick, the Dying … and the Dead, with illustrator/designer Brent Elliott White claiming he hasn't received pay or credit for his work.
The lawsuit was filed by White on Feb. 3 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. In the suit, White says he was contacted about working on the album in early 2020. Though no contract was signed at the time, White proceeded developing a concept where revisions and edits and hours of works were required. He had previously worked with the group for three other projects.
Per the suit, as shared by The Hollywood Reporter, by April 2021 a concept was chosen for the album, and the band asked White to create the art for an EP release. More than a year later, he was then asked by the band's manager Bob Johnsen for additional artistic renderings that could be used for stage decoration on the band's upcoming tour. At that point, White sent a text to Johnsen remind him that no contracts had been signed and that he hadn't been paid.
“I know album release time is hectic but I have to mention that any send off, including album art, is contingent on compensation and contract. So we’re going to have to sort that out soon,” White allegedly said at the time, per the lawsuit. Johnsen, meanwhile, is alleged to have responded, "No one intended to not have this papered by now," and he added that he would "bring it up the right way."
According to White, the single then dropped the following day and while his artwork was featured, he wasn't credited. So, he contacted Universal Music Group explaining that without an agreement to transfer rights, he still had the copyright. Meanwhile, the album then arrived in September 2022 and an agreed upon price had still not been settled. While no agreement was in place, there were also YouTube videos showing up utilizing the artwork and merchandise featuring the artwork being sold.
That has now led to the lawsuit, in which White names Megadeth, Universal Music Group and others for alleged willful copyright infringement under New York's Freelance Isn't Free Act, which requires a written contract for work valued at $800 or more.
Within the lawsuit, White is also seeking compensation for what is deemed "unlawful attempts to reduce his compensation after he provided his services and the retaliation that he endured after his complaints" about their violations. The lawsuit states that the defendants attempted to get White to accept the same terms he had agreed to for the first Megadeth album he had worked on. White did not accept the terms, breaking down the time and cost he had spent working on the artwork. When Johnsen countered that he'd agree to the terms only if it was a "total buyout" of White's intellectual property, the artist balked and countered with a price with a price to buy out his rights that the defendants then refused. Talks broke down, and White claims he has still not been paid though promotion using his artwork moved forward.
The artist is asking for a court injunction that would stop the band and their label from using the artwork, and he's seeking damages and disgorgement of profits.
The legal document detailing the lawsuit can be found here.
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