23 December 2019CopyrightSarah Morgan

Michael Jackson estate and Disney end documentary dispute

The estate of late singer Michael Jackson has settled its copyright clash with the Walt Disney Company and its subsidiary ABC over the two-hour documentary “The Last Days of Michael Jackson”.

Back in May last year, the estate claimed that the TV documentary about Jackson used his music and footage without a licence in a suit filed at the US District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division.

At the time, the estate claimed that the documentary didn’t focus on Jackson’s last days (as the title suggested), but instead gave a “mediocre” insight into his life as an entertainer.

Michael Jackson’s estate alleged that the documentary had used 30 different copyright-protected works without permission, including songs such as “Billie Jean”, “Beat It” and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and parts of music videos, including “Thriller” and “Black or White”.

“Unable to make a compelling presentation about Michael Jackson on its own, Disney decided to exploit the Jackson estate’s IP without permission or obtaining a licence for its use,” said the suit.

The estate learned that the documentary trailer would feature copyright footage two days before it aired, according to the suit, and subsequently contacted Disney, which removed the copyright-protected images “as a courtesy”, according to the claim.

However, Disney also said it would use small portions of protected music in the documentary and that this use was fair.

On Wednesday, December 18, the parties filed a joint stipulation to dismiss the dispute with prejudice. The details of the settlement haven’t been revealed.

This isn’t the first time this year that Disney has been involved in a copyright-centered development.

In November, WIPR reported that viral GIFs of a new Star Wars character, The Child (nicknamed Baby Yoda) were reinstated on GIF sharing site Giphy after being temporarily removed over alleged copyright concerns.

Baby Yoda stars in the new Disney+ series “The Mandalorian”' and GIFs of the character have been widely shared on social media since Disney launched its streaming service in November.

Giphy soon removed GIFs of Baby Yoda, with news outlets reporting that they were removed for copyright reasons by Disney.

But, in its statement to WIPR,Giphy clarified that Disney was not responsible for the takedown, and rather it had removed the posts due to “confusion”  about their legal status.

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