A federal judge in Brooklyn has temporarily ordered infamous “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli to immediately cease playing copies of the one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.” The move came after the record’s current owners, the crypto collective PleasrDAO, filed a suit against Shkreli on Tuesday.

PleasrDAO and Shkreli are set to meet in court later this month to debate the lawsuit, which alleges that by retaining copies of the album he previously owned and playing it for online audiences, Shkreli has violated a federal court ruling. 

Until that hearing, Shkreli is barred from “using, disseminating, streaming, or selling any interests in the album, including its data and files,” according to a ruling Tuesday evening by U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen. 

The storied saga of the Wu-Tang Clan’s unique, secretly recorded “Shaolin” album began in 2015, when Shkreli—then a controversial pharmaceutical executive—bought the sole existing copy of the record for a reported $2 million. The album came with the condition that it could not be commercially exploited until 2103.


After Shkreli was then tried and convicted for securities fraud in 2018, the Department of Justice seized the album, and later sold it to PleasrDAO in 2021 for a whopping $4 million. 

Since then, Shkreli has repeatedly claimed online that he retained copies of the album, and has played it for audiences—actions, PleasrDAO says, violate the forfeiture order Shkreli signed at the conclusion of his criminal trial. 

“Martin has been disrespecting this work of art for years,” Leighton Cusack, one of the founders of PleasrDAO, told Decrypt. “A lawsuit was a last resort to honor the intentions of the original artists that this work of art would remain sacred.”


On Twitter, Shkreli lambasted the lawsuit, arguing he never explicitly agreed to surrender his rights to play or share the album. 

He also emphasized that PleasrDAO, a decentralized autonomous organization designed to make decisions collectively, did not vote on whether to file the lawsuit or not. 

When asked by Decrypt how the organization came to the decision to sue Shkreli, PleasrDAO’s Cusack declined comment. Decrypt also reached out to Shkreli, but did not receive a response.

On Tuesday afternoon, shortly before Judge Chen issued a temporary restraining order against Shkreli, PleasrDAO tweeted that their ultimate goal is to disseminate the “Shaolin” album publicly. 

Our master plan is to release the music to the public in a way that honors the Wu-Tang Clan and gets them paid while circumventing the streaming oligopoly,” the DAO wrote. “Every action we are taking is in service of that mission.”

The collective has not yet, however, laid out how it plans to do so.


Edited by Andrew Hayward

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