Sony Music, Michael Jackson Estate Settle Lengthy Lawsuit Over Disputed Songs
Eight years after a Michael Jackson fan sued Sony and the singer’s estate over posthumous recordings the label released that were allegedly sung by an impersonator, the lawsuit has finally been settled.
In 2014, Jackson fan Vera Serova filed a class-action lawsuit against Sony Music, the Jackson estate, and producers claiming that three songs on the 2010 LP Michael — “Breaking News,” “Keep Your Head Up,” and “Monster” — were sold as Jackson recordings, even though Jackson’s own children, friends, and fellow artists believed they were sung by someone else.
“It’s not Michael Jackson,” Will.i.am told Rolling Stone in 2010. “I heard the song that’s on the Internet now [‘Breaking News‘] and I’m like, ‘That ain’t Mike.’ He wasn’t there to do his micro-Michael-managing that he did with ‘Thriller’ and ‘Billie Jean.’ It disgusts me.”
At the time of the album’s release — Michael was the first posthumous LP following the King of Pop’s 2009 death — the Jackson estate said that sound experts determined that the voice on the in-question recordings was Jackson’s; however, in December 2017, Sony Music and the estate conceded that the songs could potentially not feature Jackson’s vocals. Soon after, their defense switched from proving the validity of the vocals to whether the album’s liner notes — which listed Jackson as the singer — are protected by the First Amendment.
Earlier this summer, Sony Music pulled the three disputed Michael songs from streaming services, hinting that the eight-year lawsuit over the tracks — which wound its way through California courts before the Covid-19 pandemic paused its progress — was reaching a conclusion, which it finally did Wednesday when both sides agreed to end the lawsuit with a settlement. The details of the settlement were not revealed.
“Regardless of how the Supreme Court may rule, the parties to the lawsuit mutually decided to end the litigation, which would have potentially included additional appeals and a lengthy trial court process,” Sony and the estate said in a joint statement to Billboard. While both parties didn’t admit that the songs were faked, removing them from streaming services offered “the simplest and best way to move beyond the conversation associated with these tracks once and for all.”
Even before Michael’s release, the authenticity of the three songs — and, in particular, the first posthumous single “Breaking News” — was disputed, as they emerged from the recording session Jackson allegedly had in New Jersey in 2007 with producer Eddie Cascio. While Cascio defended the recordings, Jackson’s son Prince said the vocals on the three tracks didn’t match what he heard his father sing. Despite lingering questions over the Cascio recordings, they were still completed and released as part of the 10-song Michael.
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