According to The Hollywood Reporter, the artist who created the artwork for MEGADETH's latest album, "The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!", has filed a lawsuit against the band, claiming he hasn't received pay or credit for his work.
In the lawsuit, which was filed on February 3 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, New York-based illustrator and designer Brent Elliott White, who has previously worked with TRIVIUM, JOB FOR A COWBOY, DEATH ANGEL and ARCH ENEMY, among others, says he was contacted in early 2020 about creating a design concept and artwork for an upcoming MEGADETH studio album, which would be the third MEGADETH LP he has been involved in designing and producing artwork for.
By mid-April 2021, MEGADETH had settled on the concept and artwork that would become the basis for the cover of their album now titled "The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!" Around this time, White says he was asked to create cover art for an EP release, which he also worked on.
On June 22, 2022, 5B Artists + Media CEO (and MEGADETH manager) Bob Johnsen told White that MEGADETH had been working on costumes for an upcoming tour and required additional renderings of the artwork chosen for the album cover because the stage decorations for the tour would be based on the album cover art, the lawsuit states. By text, White reminded Johnsen that he still did not have a written contract with MEGADETH and had not been paid for his work, saying: "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." In response, Johnsen told White: "First song drops tmrw [sic]" but assured "No one intended to not have this papered by now" and he "would bring it up the right way."
On June 23, 2022, without a signed agreement with White in place and without paying White anything for his work, MEGADETH released White's artwork and — "shockingly to" White, according to the lawsuit — credited MEGADETH frontman Dave Mustaine for the album's "Art Concept."
The next day, White reached out to MEGADETH's record label, Universal Music Group, complaining, "I still don't have a contract or payment from UMG for The Sick The Dying and the Dead…Bob [Johnsen] reached out yesterday…and he said he left it with UMG… I assumed someone would reach out to me to have this done before the album went out. Now the art was released in conjunction with the single and album pre-sale on social, [MEGADETH] website, Rollingstone [Magazine]…None of it credits me, not a mention on social and no credit in the article. We don't have a contract or art release or usage agreement. Not trying to get legal here but since we don't have a rights transferred agreement copyright does reside with me."
After the artwork was released, MEGADETH "attempted to force" White to accept the same terms as for the first MEGADETH album he provided artwork for, according to the suit. White "never agreed to these terms and had expressly told" MEGADETH "before the album artwork was released that this arrangement would not be acceptable."
In late July 2021, White gave Johnsen a breakdown of the time he spent working on the album artwork to date, which totaled $21,500. Johnsen agreed to the amount, but only if it would be for a "total buyout" of White's intellectual property rights to his artwork. White refused, and when he gave MEGADETH a price for buying out his intellectual property rights, with carve-outs for ways in which White had previously told MEGADETH he expected to be able to continue to exploit his own work and profit from it. MEGADETH refused to agree to those terms, including White's buyout price. Still with no contract or usage agreement in place with White, MEGADETH released "The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!" in September 2022.
White is suing MEGADETH, Universal Music Group and others for copyright infringement and is asking the court for an injunction that would stop MEGADETH and UMG from using the artwork. He is also seeking damages and disgorgement of profits.