The Estate of Michael Jackson is suing ABC and The Walt Dinsey Company for copyright infringement. The lawsuit stems from ABC’s television special The Last Days of Michael Jackson, which aired on May 24.
“Disney and ABC committed willful and intentional copyright infringement when they used the Estate’s copyrighted materials without the Estate’s permission,” attorney Howard Weitzman said in a press release. “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. 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 added, “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 lists multiple examples of copyright infringement in the TV special, including “significant and repeated excerpts” of Jackson’s songs and “substantial portions” of his most famous videos. The Estate also cites the unapproved use of footage it owns, such as performances from the Jacksons’ Triumph tour, plus clips from Estate-approved projects — specifically the 2009 feature film Michael Jackson’s This Is It and Spike Lee’s 2016 documentary Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall.
The Last Days of Michael Jackson was widely panned by fans, but the two-hour special helped ABC earned the best TV ratings for the night of May 24.