Claiming that ABC and Disney used the songs, music and video clips improperly in its made for television documentary, the estate of pop’s legendary Jackson has sued for copyright infringement.
Given the enormous legal muscle brought to bear when its own famous characters are used without permission (or royalties), it seems unlikely that Disney and ABC would use the intellectual property of a global artist without seeking permission from its owners.
Yet that is exactly what these two industry giants are accused of, by the estate of Michael Jackson in a federal lawsuit filed in Los Angeles, as reported by Fox News in the article, “Michael Jackson's estate sues ABC, Disney over 'Last Days' TV special.” The two-hour program, “The Last Days of Michael Jackson,” aired on May 24 and was watched by 5.6 million adult viewers, according to Variety.
Plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages and an injunction against further use of the estate's intellectual property.
"Like Disney, the lifeblood of the estate's business is its intellectual property," the lawsuit says. "Yet for some reason, Disney decided it could just use the estate's most valuable intellectual property for free."
Representatives of ABC said they had not yet looked at the lawsuit, but reiterated a statement from last week that the special was a piece of journalism and "did not infringe on his estate's rights."
The lawsuit dismisses the idea that the documentary had any news value. The action says the show was "a mediocre look back at Michael Jackson's life and entertainment career." The lawsuit says Disney attorneys ignored letters of warning from the estate, before the airing of the documentary.
Michael Jackson died at age 50 on June 25, 2009. The cause of his death was acute intoxication from propofol. In 2011, former California cardiologist Conrad Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for giving Jackson a fatal dose of the drug. Murray served two years behind bars. His conviction was upheld in 2014.
Jackson’s contribution to music, fashion and dance, starting when he was a child star with the family group, The Jackson Five, made him a global entertainment force for many decades. Nicknamed the "King of Pop," he was one of the biggest names in entertainment in the world.
Reference: Fox News (June 1, 2018) “Michael Jackson's estate sues ABC, Disney over 'Last Days' TV special”