Megadeth are being sued for copyright infringement over the cover artwork for their latest album The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead!
New York-based illustrator Brent Elliott White is claiming that hundreds of hours of work have gone unpaid and that he still owns the copyright to the art. According to The Hollywood Reporter, White says that he “created artwork and characters over time for Megadeth that have become an integral part of the band’s identity.”
He apparently was initially contacted to work on the artwork in early 2020, but no written contract was signed at that time. Nevertheless, White continued to conceptualize the project, which involved multiple revisions and “hundreds of hours of work.”
Per the suit, the band chose the cover concept for The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead! in April 2021 and White was asked to create art for an EP release. Then, in June 2022, he was asked by Megadeth’s manager to provide additional artwork renderings for stage designs to be used on tour. Still without a signed contract, White reached out to the manager via text: “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.”
The lawsuit adds that the manager was purportedly receptive (“No one intended to not have this papered by now,” he replied), but the album’s lead single dropped the next day, with White’s uncredited art appearing on various music websites. He then went directly to Universal Music Group to explain that he was still the copyright holder until an agreement to transfer rights was made.
The album eventually dropped in September 2022, and the parties involved had yet to agree on a price. White is now suing Megadeth, Universal Music Group, and others, stating that his art has been viewed millions of times via YouTube videos, etc., and that it was licensed to third-party merchandisers without permission. He is also invoking multiple claims under New York’s Freelance Isn’t Free Act, which requires a written contract for work valued at $800 or more, among other protections.
You can view the album art in question below.