May 31, 2018 10:09 am

Michael Jackson estate sues ABC for copyright infringement, ‘Last Days’ special

Michael Jackson performs in concert circa 1986.

Kevin Mazur/WireImage
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A recent ABC special about the King of Pop will land the network in court.

The estate of late musician Michael Jackson is suing the network and The Walt Disney Company over claims the special utilized copyright-protected material without the estate’s permission to do so.

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“Disney and ABC committed willful and intentional copyright infringement when they used the Estate’s copyrighted materials without the Estate’s permission,” said lawyer Howard Weitzman. His partner, Jonathan Steinsapir, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Jackson estate.

READ MORE: Michael Jackson’s estate slams ABC’s ‘The Last Days Of Michael Jackson’ special: ‘crass and unauthorized’

“Disney’s conduct here was particularly surprising given that it has no tolerance for anyone using its copyrighted material in even the most trivial of manners,” added Weitzman. “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,” he continued. “Can you imagine using Disney’s intellectual property — like Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, Star Wars, The Avengers, Toy Story, and so many other works – without asking Disney’s permission or getting a license? The Estate has no choice but to vigorously protect its intellectual property, which is the lifeblood of its business.”

The lawsuit cites numerous examples of excerpts from Jackson’s songs, music videos and performance footage utilized in the special, and pointed to the hypocrisy of Disney using copyrighted material without permission when it vigorously protects its own copyrights — even going so far as to sue independent daycare centres that have unauthorized images of Disney characters painted on a wall.

READ MORE: ‘The Last Days Of Michael Jackson’ special features unseen interviews about the King of Pop

“Apparently, Disney’s passion for the copyright laws disappears when it doesn’t involve its own intellectual property and it sees an opportunity to profit off of someone else’s intellectual property without permission or payment,” states the suit.

ABC has yet to issue a response to this lawsuit, but in a statement made prior to the special airing, the network insisted the “program does not infringe on his estate’s rights.”

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