Disney and Michael Jackson estate settle documentary dispute
LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Disney and Michael Jackson’s estate have resolved a copyright dispute over a documentary about the late King of Pop that saw the Hollywood studio accused of breathtaking hypocrisy and aggressive tactics.
“The Last Days of Michael Jackson”, a two-hour program that aired on Disney-owned ABC in 2018, was accused of using the pop star’s songs, music videos, concert footage and clips of his memorial service without permission.
On Thursday, Jackson lawyer Howard Weitzman said in a statement to AFP: “The matter has been amicably resolved.” No details of the settlement were provided.
The Jackson estate’s lawyers alleged in a complaint filed last year that Disney had ignored copyright law while zealously prosecuting anyone who infringed on its own intellectual property.
“Unable to make a compelling presentation about Michael Jackson on its own, Disney decided to exploit the Jackson Estate’s intellectual property,” read the complaint.
Disney has argued that the documentary — a broad overview of Jackson’s life — made fair use of content including parts of hits “Billie Jean” and “Beat It”, as allowed under copyright law.
But the complaint noted that “Disney has threatened to sue independent childcare centers for having pictures of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck on their walls.”
“Disney once sued a couple on public assistance for $1 million when they appeared at children’s parties dressed as an orange tiger and a blue donkey. Apparently, those costumes cut too close to Tigger and Eeyore for Disney’s tastes,” it added.
Jackson is estimated to have sold 350 million records, including “Thriller”, the best-selling album of all time.
He amassed 13 Grammy Awards, 13 number one solo singles in the United States and became the first artist in history to have a top ten single in the Billboard Hot 100 in five different decades.
He died in June 2009 at age 50, while he was in the Los Angeles area practicing for a planned series of concerts in London entitled “This Is It”.
The cause was given as an overdose of the anesthetic propofol. His personal doctor, Conrad Murray, was convicted in 2011 for administering the fatal dose of medication to Jackson.
The Jackson estate this year filed a $100 million lawsuit against HBO for “posthumous character assassination” after its documentary “Leaving Neverland” alleged that Jackson molested young boys at his fairytale-themed ranch.
HBO has launched an appeal in its bid to dismiss the case.