Michael Jackson Documentary Starts Lawsuit Over Private Footage of Jackson from His Last Magazine Shoot
Posted by Jeffrey Harris on 06.28.2014
Production company in legal battle with Jackson's estate...
THR reports that the production company behind Michael Jackson: The Last Photo Shoot has filed a lawsuit against the executors of the late singer's estate. The company wants to confirm they have valid rights to unseen footage of Jackson from a 2007 photo shoot.
The dispute surrounds reported never-before-seen footage of Jackson that was taken in 2007, two years before he died. The director of the film, Craig Williams, said the footage was taken at the Brooklyn Museum of Art for Ebony magazine as Jackson attempted to make a comeback. The late pop artist gave his first magazine interview in a decade. The documentary features interviews with the singer's friends, photographers and stylists as Jackson prepared, and it shows images of Jackson.
However, the attorney for Michael Jackson's estate, Howard Weitzman, claims that the images of Jackson are private. He said: "The makers of the documentary are attempting to exploit footage and photographs of Michael Jackson, which we believe are owned by his Estate. The documentary contains footage of Michael during private moments that he never agreed could be publicly and commercially exploited without his consent and/or involvement. Michael never authorized or approved the use of this material in the film."
Noval Williams Films asserts that it validly obtained rights. According to the company's complaint filed in New York federal court, the Jackson camp was offered the opportunity to purchase rights in 2011, but passed. In May, 2013, Williams reportedly stepped up to allegedly acquire rights to the images. Deals were then apparently made by Williams' company with distributors.
Two months ago, Weitzman wrote a letter to the production company and said Jackson allowed the footage to be taken for his own use and claimed that the footage was done as a "work-for-hire," so Jackson should be considered the author for copyright purposes. The production company later said that they had legally acquired rights, causing Weitzman to make another demand to see the film.
Noval Williams Films is now going to court to seek declaratory relief that the production company is not infringing copyrights and the defendant does not have a claim from the contracts by which the images were first created.