Michael Jackson’s estate has put out a $100 million lawsuit against HBO over Leaving Neverland three months after airing the Dan Reed program. The documentary looked at the interactions between Michael Jackson with Wade Robson and James Safechuck when they were children. Allegations of child molestation were made and the Jackson estate has been against the HBO series. They are now taking the network to court.
The issue at hand is whether or not, HBO is in breach of contract with airing Leaving Neverland because the network has had a “longstanding contractual relationship” with Jackson. They claim there is a non-disparagement clause that was breached. According to The Blast, the estate wants their case to be heard in public arbitration, but HBO doesn’t understand why a private court is necessary.
They admit that in 1992 they struck a deal with Jackson to air one of his concert specials and that the non-disparagement clause was in the contract, but they didn’t breach anything. A non-disparagement clause means that an employer can’t say anything negative about an employee, even when their contract has been completed or severed.
In Leaving Neverland, the 1992 concert was mentioned, but HBO claims that it was only briefly and wasn’t an important part of the docuseries. The network also says that it’s been over 25 years since that contract was enacted, so it’s “long past any reasonable period of time thereafter.”
Recently, the lawyers for Michael Jackson, attended an event at a UCLA campus. “Truth Be Told? Documentary Films Today,” was a discussion created by two rival schools as sponsors; the UCLA School of Law Ziffren Center and USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism.
John Branca who represents Michael Jackson spoke with people in attendance explaining his thoughts on the HBO presentation of “Leaving Neverland”. Howard Weitzman was also present from the legal camp of the King Of Pop.
Testimony is presented as fact. No other side is presented. The director [Dan Reed] even said he had no interest in talking to anybody else.John Branca
The idea of offering fair and balanced views doesn’t play in the media business today. The only true reality TV where the outcome is unknown is a sporting event.Howard Weitzman
John Branca continued to tell the audience why it should be imperative the law be reviewed when it comes to these situations where people no longer live should have rights.
The purpose of the First Amendment is supposedly getting at the truth, but the lack of defamation protection for an individual no longer living isn’t helpful in that regard,” states Branca. “If copyright protection is life plus 75 years, there’s no reason a defamation suit shouldn’t be life plus 20, 30 or even 40 years.”
When asked by a student why the Jackson legal team didn’t pursue this issue to the Supreme Court in an attempt to get the law overturned, Weizman shrugged: “We definitely talked about it, but ultimately decided it wasn’t a good expenditure of time or energy. But it is something, long-term, I would be interested in doing, not just for Michael Jackson, but everybody.”
Branca suggested the media has been hounding Michael Jackson since at least the mid-‘80s, with rags such as National Enquirer. The lawyer also let it be known how difficult it is to counter “fake news” in “Leaving Neverland” as journalists fail to realize Robson and Safechuck are suing the estate for what they describe in the movie as having happened.
“I was a big fan of Elvis Presley,” Branca said, before pointing out that Presley began dating his wife-to-be, Priscilla, when she was 14. “John Lennon beat his first wife, but he wrote ‘Imagine,’ so we deify him. Now we’re about to hear stories about Martin Luther King, Jr. Does their personal life make it impossible to enjoy their artistry?