Michael Jackson Estate Calls ABC News Special ‘Another Crass and Unauthorized Attempt to Exploit’ His Legacy

Family says “The Last Days of Michael Jackson,” airing Thursday, infringes on intellectual property rights

Last Updated: May 23, 2018 @ 4:25 PM

Michael Jackson’s estate has released a statement accusing ABC News of violating its intellectual property with its planned special about the singer’s final days.

ABC is set to air the two-hour documentary “The Last Days of Michael Jackson” on Thursday, exploring the King of Pop’s life and legacy, from his complicated childhood to the record-breaking comeback concerts, “This Is It,” that he didn’t live to perform.

However, the Jackson estate has now made clear that it does not approve of the documentary, calling it “another crass and unauthorized attempt to exploit the life, music and image of Michael Jackson without respect for Michael’s legacy, intellectual property rights or his children.”

The Jackson estate took particular umbrage at ABC’s promotion of the special using copyrighted material owned by the estate: “Only after notice from our attorneys to ABC News indicating they were infringing on our IP rights were the materials removed.”

The estate also notes that “ABC intends to use music and other intellectual property owned by the Estate such as photos, logos, artwork, and more in the program itself, without having licensed the rights to any such material.”

Featuring never-before-seen interviews with Jackson by Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer, the special also includes new interviews with Jackson’s dance teacher, public decoy and Lisa Staub, the tour operator who was in front of his house on the day he died.

In response to the accusations by the Jackson estate, a spokesperson for the ABC News denied that the contents of the special infringe on their rights.

“ABC News’ documentary explores the life, career and legacy of Michael Jackson, who remains of great interest to people worldwide. The program does not infringe on his estate’s rights, but as a courtesy, we removed a specific image from the promotional material.”

Read the Jackson estate’s full statement:

We want consumers to know that The Last Days of Michael Jackson,  a television special airing on ABC TV (a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company) tomorrow May 24, is not sponsored or approved by the Estate of Michael Jackson. It is particularly disheartening that Disney, a company known to strongly believe in protecting its own IP rights, would choose to ignore these rights belonging to the Estate.

ABC was using a copyrighted photo and silhouette image owned by the Estate in the trailers and promotional material for the special. Only after notice from our attorneys to ABC News indicating they were infringing on our IP rights were the materials removed. We are told ABC intends to use music and other intellectual property owned by the Estate such as photos, logos, artwork, and more in the program itself, without having licensed the rights to any such material. Imagine if this was done with any of ABC’s intellectual property. We believe the special to be another crass and unauthorized attempt to exploit the life, music and image of Michael Jackson without respect for Michael’s legacy, intellectual property rights or his children.

The Estate of Michael Jackson

“The Last Days of Michael Jackson” is scheduled to premiere Thursday, May 24 at 8/7c on ABC.