Earlier this year, Michael Jackson’s estate filed a lawsuit against Disney|ABC over the use of Jackson’s images and music. Disney’s official response to the lawsuit call the estate “overzealous copyright holders.”

What’s happening:

  • An article posted by The Hollywood Reporter, says that Disney is taking a stand against “overzealous copyright holders” in this case, the Michael Jackson estate.
  • Back in May, Jackson’s estate sued ABC and parent company Disney for claimed unauthorized use of Jackson’s image and song in their prime-time special, The Last Days of Michael Jackson.
  • The two-hour program featured clips from This Is It and other works including music videos for “Thriller” and “Black or White.”
  • Prior to the lawsuit, Jackson’s estate filed a complaint saying that ABC did not obtain or request the rights to use Jackson’s images for their primetime special, to which Disney responded saying they removed a specific image from their promotional materials as a curtesy.
  • Interestingly, Disney’s stance on this matter follows their recent lawsuit against a New York based company that sends out costumed characters to parties and special events. Disney claims the company’s knock off characters are in violation of trademarked properties owned by Disney.

What they’re saying:

  • Disney in response to the claims of wrongful use of Jackson’s images and songs: “This case is about the right of free speech under the First Amendment, the doctrine of fair use under the Copyright Act, and the ability of news organizations to use limited excerpts of copyrighted works — here, in most instances well less than 1% of the works— for the purpose of reporting on, commenting on, teaching about, and criticizing well-known public figures of interest in biographical documentaries without fear of liability from overzealous copyright holders.”
  • Disney’s official Court filing: “ABC News used and incorporated short excerpts of some songs, music videos and other material featuring Jackson within a two-hour documentary entitled The Last Days of Michael Jackson for the purpose of providing historical context and explanation tracing the arc and aspects of Jackson’s life and career—precisely what is contemplated and permitted by the First Amendment. Plaintiffs’ lawsuit, in violation of these legal principles, constitutes an attempt to exercise unfettered control over public commentary and opinion on Jackson’s life and career.”


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