The Michael Jackson Estate has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against ABC and parent company Disney for illegally using substantial excerpts of some of his most noteworthy songs, including ‘Billie Jean’ and ‘Bad,’ and music videos, including ‘Thriller’ and ‘Black or White’ in their The Last Days of Michael Jackson TV special that aired on March 24.
The lawsuit also alleges that ABC used clips from Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall, and from the 2009 feature film Michael Jackson’s This is It without permission.
The estate raised objections prior to the TV special airing stating that Disney’s attorneys never reached out to obtain permission before the show aired. “Disney asserted that the show was a ‘documentary’ and was entitled to use the material under the ‘fair use’ doctrine.”
Howard Weitzman, attorney for the Jackson estate, claims that Disney’s assertation was “patently absurd,” as Disney aggressively enforces their own copyrights.
“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” Weitzman wrote. He continued by saying that Disney “would never allow a two-hour ‘documentary’ on Star Wars that made extensive use of film clips and the Star Wars score.”
“Disney is obviously aware of the copyright laws,” he continued. “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.”
Take a look at the filing paperwork below.