Michael Jackson’s estate has sued ABC and parent company Disney claiming the network’s documentary about the King of Pop’s last days used his music without permission.
The Last Days of Michael Jackson aired last week, and was watched by 5.6 million viewers.
But the lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court in Los Angeles said the special used excerpts of Jackson’s hit songs Billie Jean and Bad without consent, according to The Associated Press.
“Disney used this music without obtaining required permissions from both the owners of the sound recordings (the Estate) and the owner of the musical compositions (the Estate for most songs, and third parties for a few others),” the lawsuit states.
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The suit also claims the two-hour special included unauthorized clips from Jackson’s Thriller and Black or White music videos, as well as a portion of a 2016 Spike Lee documentary about the superstar singer.
“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.”
The estate raised concerns before the two-hour special aired, saying in a statement to the media that it
was “not sponsored or approved” by Jackson’s representatives.
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At the time, the estate accused ABC of using “a copyrighted photo and silhouette image” of Jackson to promote the documentary.
As a courtesy, ABC said it removed an image of Jackson.
The documentary aired as part of ABC’s 20/20 news program, and the network said under “fair use” rules it could include excerpts of Jackson’s work.
But the lawsuit claims the special had no news value, calling it “a mediocre look back at Michael Jackson’s life and entertainment career.”
The copyright infringement suit is seeking unspecified damages.