Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Lawsuit Arising Out Of Michael Jackson's "Last Photo Shoot" Documentary

Michael Jackson

The production company behind “Michael Jackson: The Last Photo Shoot” documentary has filed a lawsuit against the executors of the late singer’s estate.

Craig Williams, the film’s director, describes the footage having been taken at the Brooklyn Museum of Art for Ebony Magazine.  The documentary features interviews with the singer’s friends, photographers and stylists as Jackson prepared for his last photo shoot. The documentary of course, features images of Jackson. 

Howard Weitzman, attorney for the Michael Jackson estate, says that the images are private.  “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 argues that it has validly obtained rights.  In the filed complaint, the Jackson camp was offered the opportunity to purchase the rights in 2011, but passed.  In May 2013, Williams stepped in to legally acquire rights. 

The documentary maker is now going to court to seek declaratory relief that it is not infringing copyrights and Jackson’s estate does not have a valid claim arising from the contracts by which the images were first created. 

See Eriq Gardner, Michael Jackson Documentary Featuring ‘Private’ Footage Triggers Lawsuit, Billboard, June 28, 2014.


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