Michael Jackson's Estate Sues Disney for Copyright Infringement Over ABC Special
"We believe the special to be another crass and unauthorized attempt to exploit the life, music and image of Michael Jackson," the estate said of the special
Michael Jackson‘s estate is suing The Walt Disney Company and ABC.
The late pop icon’s estate has filed a federal copyright infringement lawsuit against the TV powerhouse over the network’s recent prime time special The Last Days of Michael Jackson.
The estate claims ABC used a plethora of copyrighted materials without permission, from his hits (“Billie Jean,” “Beat It”) and clips of music videos (“Thriller,” “Bad”) to live concert footage, a portion of the 2016 Spike Lee documentary Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall and the 2009 documentary Michael Jackson’s This Is It.
“Disney and ABC committed willful and intentional copyright infringement when they used the Estate’s copyrighted materials without the Estate’s permission,” Howard Weitzman — the Jackson estate’s attorney — said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.
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“Disney and ABC’s conduct is also contrary to law and industry practice, and despite several cautionary letters from the Estate to Disney and ABC attorneys. Disney and ABC never sought the Jackson Estate’s permission to use any of the material owned by the Estate in the broadcast,” Weitzman’s statement continued, adding: “The Estate has no choice but to vigorously protect its intellectual property, which is the lifeblood of its business.”
The Last Days of Michael Jackson aired May 24 on ABC. The controversial special investigated the King of Pop’s troubled life, from his young rise to fame to his decline into addiction and debt in his later years.
“We have not yet had an opportunity to review the complaint. The ABC News’ documentary explored the life, career and legacy of Michael Jackson, who remains of great interest to people worldwide, and did not infringe on his estate’s rights,” an ABC News spokesperson tells PEOPLE.
Jackson’s estate slammed the piece in a statement before it aired: “We believe the special to be another crass and unauthorized attempt to exploit the life, music and image of Michael Jackson without respect for Michael’s legacy, intellectual property rights or his children.”