LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) – Recording giant Sony Music obtained a favorable decision in an appeal involving tracks of a Michael Jackson posthumous album.
California District Judge Elwood Lui, on the bench of the California Second District Court of Appeal, Division Two, issued a 31-page ruling Aug. 28, affirming and reversing in part the Los Angeles County Superior Court's decision in the class action lawsuit filed by Vera Serova against Sony Music Entertainment, co-executor of Michael Jackson's estate John Branca, and MJJ Productions Inc.
In his ruling, Lui considered the statements in the album's promotional video as noncommercial, protected by the First Amendment, and added that Serova "cannot show a likelihood that she will prevail on her claims," and that those "must be stricken."
Serova sued Sony Music and the other defendants on claims that Jackson was not the lead singer on three of the 10 tracks of the album called "Michael," as it was represented in the album cover and promotional video and alleged fraud and misrepresentation on promoting those tracks.
The lower court concluded that the cover and the video were considered commercial speech, regulated under the Unfair Competition Law and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, which were the basis for Serova's claims.
As stated in the ruling, the album was released in 2010, about 18 months after Michael Jackson’s death. The album had 10 songs, and Serova claimed that "the three songs on the disputed tracks—'Breaking News,' 'Monster,' and 'Keep Your Head Up'—have been controversial since 'Michael’s' inception.'”
Serova also claimed that, per the ruling, that producer Edward Cascio and other defendants "recorded the initial versions of the disputed tracks and had 'exclusive knowledge' that the lead vocals for the songs were actually performed by a singer other than Michael Jackson," as well as she also alleged that it was "falsely represented to appellants that Michael Jackson was the singer."
In a statement cited in the ruling, Jackson's estate attorney Howard Weitzman said that "many persons who were familiar with Jackson’s work had confirmed that he was the lead singer on the disputed tracks, including former producers, engineers, performers and directors who had worked with Jackson," and that the defendants "had also retained forensic musicologists who examined the Disputed Tracks and concluded that the lead singer was actually Jackson."
California Second District Court of Appeal case number B280526