Michael Jackson’s estate is suing HBO and its parent company Time Warner over a documentary they are set to air next month. The lawsuit has been filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and suggests that by airing ‘Leaving Neverland’ the channel is breaching a deal to not disparage the singer.
The contract that the network is said to be breaching was initially written up in 1992 before airing one of Jackson’s concerts. This old contract allowed the network to air ‘Michael Jackson in Concert in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour.’ This old contract states that the network is not allowed to criticise or vilify the singer.
The new HBO documentary ‘Leaving Neverland’ is about two men who claim that the late singer molested them when they were children. The description of the show reads “At the height of his stardom Michael Jackson began long-running relationships with two boys, aged 7 and 10, and their families. Now in their 30s, they tell the story of how they were sexually abused by Jackson, and how they came to terms with it years later.”
Jackson’s estate denounces the allegations against the singer and the documentary as a whole, stating that it “is yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson”.
Representatives of Jackson’s estate have also said that “Michael is an easy target because he is not here to defend himself” they went on to argue that “the law does not protect the deceased from defamation, no matter how extreme the lies are.”
The lawsuit is complicated, due to the nature of the contract and the fact that Jackson is no longer alive. However, runners of Jackson’s estate note that “Michael Jackson is innocent. Period”.
Regardless of the lawsuit, HBO are determined to not let it impact their plans. In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, HBO stated “Despite the desperate lengths taken to undermine the film, our plans remain unchanged. HBO will move forward with the airing of Leaving Neverland, the two-part documentary, on March 3rd and 4th. This will allow everyone the opportunity to assess the film and the claims in it for themselves.”
This means that legal proceedings are likely to continue, unless another agreement is reached. According to sources, the Jackson Estate seeks “all damages proximately caused by HBO’s reprehensible disparagement of Michael Jackson, which could exceed $100 million”.