The production company behind a new Michael Jackson film is suing the executors of Jackson’s estate over the right to use footage of “private moments” in their upcoming film, Michael: The Last Photo Shoots.
The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Noval Williams Films and Jackon’s estate are preparing for a legal battle over the right to what some consider to be “private” footage of the late pop icon.
The production company is seeking declaratory relief to prove it is not infringing upon any copyrights by using footage of Jackson, which was shot roughly two years before he died in 2009.
The film’s director Craig Williams claims that he has the right to use the footage because it was taken during an interview and photo shoot with Ebony magazine in 2007.
At the time, Jackson was preparing for his U.S. comeback after living abroad.
According to RollingStone, it was also his first magazine interview in 10 years.
But an attorney for Jackson’s estate has fired back, saying the footage is private and owned by the estate.
“The makers of the documentary are attempted to exploit footage and photographs of Michael Jackson, which we believe are owned by his estate,” said Howard Weitzman, an attorney for Jackson’s 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.”
For now, it is unclear if it is the content of the footage that has the estate representatives concerned, or if they are simply concerned about anyone using footage without their permission.
Williams, however, says the Jackson estate was given the opportunity to own the footage, but they turned it down.
Williams says in 2011 Jackson’s representatives were offered the chance to buy the rights to the clip, and later in 2013, Williams made his own move on it.
The challenge will be confirming whether or not the footage was shot as “work-for-hire.” In that case, the footage would belong to the estate and not the production company, despite any transactions in the past.