Late pop icon Michael Jackson’s estate filed a copyright infringement suit on Wednesday against The Walt Disney Company for the usage of Jackson’s songs and videos without permission, by the ABC television network. The TV special, The Last Days of Michael Jackson aired on March 24 and the estate alleged that the producers used certain songs like Beat It, Billie Jean, The Girl Is Mine, including music videos such as Thriller and clips from This Is It without permission.
“The extent of Disney’s use of the Estate’s intellectual property in ‘The Last Days of Michael Jackson’ is truly astounding,” the suit states. The estate claimed that Disney’s attorneys never reached out to obtain permission before the show aired. But Disney, however, declared that the show was a documentary and was thereby entitled to use the material under the ‘fair use’ doctrine. The attorney for the estate, Howard Weitzman, argued that it was ‘patently absurd’.
“Disney and ABC committed willful and intentional copyright infringement when they used the Estate’s copyrighted materials without the Estate’s permission,” said Weitzman in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.
“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. The Estate has no choice but to vigorously protect its intellectual property, which is the lifeblood of its business,” he added.
The show, The Last Days of Michael Jackson highlighted various phases of Jackson’s troubled life, from his rise to fame to his decline into addiction and debt in his later years.
Talking about the complaint, an ABC spokesperson told PEOPLE, “We have not yet had an opportunity to review the complaint. 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.”