Michael Jackson Estate Slams Disney: ‘Astounding’

Michael Jackson’s estate sued ABC for a special that aired about his last days alive.

The ABC special included speculation on the final period of the life of the pop star, who died in 2009.

But the lawsuit said that ABC used songs and music in the broadcast without the estate’s permission. ABC and its owner Disney, the lawsuit alleges, violated copyright.

Reuters reported that the lawsuit was filed in a Los Angeles federal court, and it named ABC’s corporate parent Walt Disney as a defendant.

“Like Disney, the lifeblood of the estate’s business is its intellectual property,” the complaint says, Reuters reported. “Yet for some reason, Disney decided it could just use the estate’s most valuable intellectual property for free.”

The suit encompasses “The Last Days of Michael Jackson,” a TV special that aired on March 24 on the network.

The estate says that hit songs like “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” and “The Girl is Mine” were used in the documentary. Videos such as “Thriller” and “This Is It” were also used without permission, Variety reported.

“The extent of Disney’s use of the Estate’s intellectual property in ‘The Last Days of Michael Jackson’ is truly astounding,” the suit added.

“If Disney’s position on fair use of the Estate’s copyrights were accepted, a network, studio, or producer could make a documentary about Walt Disney, and spend most of the documentary’s time using, without Disney’s permission, extensive clips of Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney, and Disney movies,” Howard Weitzman, the attorney for the Jackson estate, wrote, Variety reported.

He said that the material couldn’t be used under the “fair use” doctrine, saying that was “patently absurd.” He noted that this is in light of Dinsey’s rampant enforcement against copyright violations of its own intellectual property.

“Disney is obviously aware of the copyright laws,” he added. “Disney knows that permission from the copyright owner must be obtained before using copyright works, particularly in commercial projects like the one at issue here. Disney did not do that.”

An ABC News spokesperson said the company had not yet reviewed the lawsuit but defended the broadcast, Reuters reported.

“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,” the spokesperson said via e-mail.

Jackson, known as the “King of Pop,” died in 2009 from a prescription drug overdose at age 50.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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