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Michael Jackson estate and Disney reach settlement in ABC documentary dispute

By | Published on Friday 20 December 2019

Michael Jackson

The Michael Jackson estate has settled its ongoing lawsuit with Disney over the TV show ‘The Last Days Of Michael Jackson’, which aired on the entertainment group’s US-based ABC channel in May last year.

The estate went legal almost as soon as the programme had been broadcast, filing a long list of complaints about the show, which – its lawyers argued – made use of lots of copyright material that was owned by the estate without permission. This was particularly egregious, the estate argued, given Disney’s long history of enforcing its own intellectual property rights.

Disney then retaliated in August 2018 in a legal filing that cited free speech rights under the US Constitution’s First Amendment and the fair use principle under US copyright law. These particularly applied, it said, to the makers of news programmes and documentaries like ‘The Last Days Of Michael Jackson’.

Therefore, Disney argued, it was well within its rights to make use of clips of Jackson’s music and videos in its programme without licensing that material from its owners.

Now, more than a year later, the two sides have reached a settlement agreement without having to go to trial. So that’s nice. Although terms are not known, a rep for the estate told Rolling Stone that “the matter was amicably resolved”. Disney and ABC have not commented.