Legal Updates

On July 30th, 2010 a Los Angeles Judge held a joint hearing on Ola Ray's and John Landis' case against "Optimum Productions Inc." related to the "Thriller" video's incomes. Ray's jury trial will stat next May, while decesion on Landis's case will be made on October 29th, 2010.

Sony voluntary dismissed it's case against TV Guide Network regarding the illegal use of some MJ videos.

David Gest and Julien's Auctions settled their case out of court in late June.


Old Projects II: MJJ-Poland Inc.

While searching for documents on MJ's licensing issues, I found the original contract for another old project of MJ's. So I jumped on this one looking for more information. Let's see what exactly happened...

MJ released his "HIStory" album in 1995, but his interest was more on other entertainment ventures. On March 19, 1996 he and a Saudi prince announced the form of a joint venture named "Kingdom Entertainment". Their first project was to sponsor MJ's next world tour, and to create a recording label under Sony called "MJJ Records" (dba. "MJJ Music"). They also acquired 55% ownership in "Landmark Entertainment" (5% owned by MJ) famous for Hollywood design projects.

Their next big dream was to build amusement parks all over the world. The prince already owned 24% ownership in Disneyland Paris, so it was a logical move. One of the possible places was in Warsaw, Poland.

MJ first flew to Poland as a part of his then world tour in September, 1996. He has been approached by a local businessman, Jacques Tourel director of the World Trade Center in Warsaw to consider Poland as one of the possible places.

MJ went back to Poland on May 28, 1997 to explore the possible venues for his new project. The local politicans were amazed and supported the $500 million investment. However MJ's people insisted it is one of the places they are thinking in, a June 1, 1999 date has been named for the opening. MJ furthermore signed a letter of interest in which both parties agreed to prepare for the contructions. MJ even set up a company in Deleware under "MJJ Poland Inc".
The original agreement can be found here: http://slimak.onet.pl/_m/TVN/tvn24/intencyjny.pdf

MJ has applied for a lease on a two-story baroque home outside Warsaw and way eyeing with other properties and business ventures.

The plans to build the amusement park on a nearby military airport have won approval from state officials in February, 1998. In the meantime MJ asked Landmark to create some sketches for the proposed theme parks. You may see the design plans here: http://disneyandmore.blogspot.com/2009/11/d-exclusive-michael-jacksons-peter-pans.html

After the approval of the project there was a big silent. The army that owned the airport didn't agree to give it to MJ. The other two grounds the government pointed out to was also denied because of the protests of local people. Finally the Polish government gave up their plans to do anything with the amusement park and the project faded out...

Old Projects I: MJ Licensing LLC

I have decided to pick up old MJ projects from time to time to see what happened with them. If you are curious about any of them, message me here.

The first choise of mine was "MJ Licensing LLC", a complete mistery for many of us. Until now.

This story began in 1997 when a German businessman, Dieter Wiesner approached MJ for creating a soft drink called "Mystery". The project failed as soon as a competing comapany launched legal actions against the entity behind "Mystery" for trademark violation. Neverthless MJ asked Wiesner to rebuild his merchandising business in 2000. Within a few months Wiesner set up a company named "MJ Net Entertainment AG" (MJNE) and signed several strategic partners. MJ orally and in written agreements promised to give some rights to MJNE. MJ's previous licensing agent, "Signatures Network" (Sony) sued both of them for breaching a previous contract for the same rights. After years of litigations on court the parties settled the case.

MJ set up a new company in October 2003 named "MJ Licensing LLC" (MJL) co-owned with Gunter Backer. The directors appointed Wiesner as the CEO of MJL and MJ promised him to be compensated for the loss of MJNE. Finally MJ decided not to give any rights to MJL and terminated any professional relationship with Wiesner at the end of 2003. MJ thought that Backer did not meet with all the obligations they agreed on.

Three years after the setup of MJNE and bills amounting around $8 million Wiesner decided to sue MJ on a Los Angeles court. The two reached an agreement in September 2007 what Wiesner commented for me like "it was a gentleman's settlement". The details were never published, however MJL kept releasing so called official items without either MJ's involvement and legal threats. More likely the two agreed on giving certain rights for MJL. In the meantime MJNE was closed in Germany, Wiesner had to appear on court and certain partners demanded for money. In one case a court ordered MJNE to give the MJ HIStory logo to a company they owned money.

All over the time it was Wiesner behind MJL under different project names and domains, among others:
mj-licensing.com, michaeljacksonlicensing.com - online with tribute text
mjlicensing.com, mj-licensing.de - offline
mjj-merchandising.com, www.mjj-merchandising.de, michaeljacksonshop.de, michaeljacksonshop.com - online with a list of old releases

Wiesner was helped by certain individuals, mostly by Stefan Munstedt. He owned mijac.org and some of the other domains, and was responsible for projects. In early 2006 Wiesner and Munsted added a Bahrain representation to their already existing German and US ones under "ML Publishing LLC" (MLP). I was told back then that MLP had a licensing approval from both MJ and Sony. I guess it was the same old agreement of MJNE's.
ml-publishing.com, ml-publishing.de - online with contacts

How about MJL's present and future? Since MJ's death MJL granted some European companies with MJ licensing rights. In one case MJL's approval crossed lines with the Estate's plans, because both of them appointed entities to license MJ related official costumes. The two manufacturer ended up at court late last year. The fact that the parties agreed out of court and that MJL still exists and operates means that the Estate can not or would not do anything with them. MJL launched several new items like a CelebriDuck last September.

According to the 2003 MJL agreement the company's rights will live until June 20, 2012 and might be limited to some parts of Europe. At least the 50% of the incomes goes to the Estate anyways (I have been told by an insider in 2007 that this might be up to 75%).


Henry Vaccaro Wants Money

As I have reported about it previously, Henry Vaccaro still owns the biggest Jackson Family memorablia collection on the world. Including so called "unreleased Jackson 5" master tapes (most likely these tapes are from a Jackson variety show in the 70's).

Vaccaro now wants to make money out of the collection. Besides trying to release the master tapes, he is creating a new book full of unpublished Jackson photos. He choosed Fotobridge to digitally archive the items.


The "Michael Jackson Asia Rights" Story

Days before the first anniversary of MJ's death a Japanese businessman announced a new official MJ project. Claiming that based on a previous agreement with MJ he is the sole owner of MJ's licensing rights in the Asian region.

Of course this is stupid and untrue. As the media reported, MJ had a business relationship with this guy back in the late 90's, but they never got into a real agreement. This is nothing more then a crazy attempt to get some money. And lawsuits I guess.

MJ owned his licensing rights 100% since 1984, when he established "Triumph International Inc.". Those rights were used by agents through the years for major promotions (like the Sony albums) and special projects (like a Japanese clothing line in 2003). At the moment Triumph is the sole owner worldwide, controlled by MJ's Estate. The only official agent is Univeral's Bravado, who is adding strategic partners almost monthly. The only problem is that MJ had a licensing agreement with certain German people both in 2001 and 2003. This agreement provides a company "MJ Licensing LLC" releasing so called official items until June, 2012 in Europe alone. Majority of the incomes goes to the Estate from MJL as well.

How about Asia? MJ established another company in 2001 for the Asian and Pacific markets called "Michael Jackson Asia/Pacific Co.". This entity was owned by several local partners and MJ himself, but got dismissed years ago. The same happened with another local MJ licensing company in Singapor. The licensing rights were sold to a company, "Ecbizz Japan Co." that used the brand until last year. Most likely the Estate negoitated an agreement with the company, and got all the rights back. All of Ecbizz's websites and products has been erased (like the famous clothing line and a mobile phone). The only strategic partner the Estate kept in is Hot Toys, that will release more figures this year inspired by MJ.

The new people interfering with MJ's businesses established a company called "Michael Jackson Asia Rights Co." (mja-rights.com) for the local licensing rights, and are ready to create a management entity under "Michael Jackson Asia Co.". As well a foundation in MJ's name to spend some of the incomes on charity.
Along with a local mobile developer company, mThink they are planning to release applications and tools (mobile-mj.com) starting from late July. They are already selling merchandises.

According to their website, they are in discussion with the Estate now. They claim that MJ signed two contracts, one over a press conference in Japan, and one in July, 1988 in a Tokyo hotel. The contract covers his likeness for the next 25 years on the Asian and Japan region.

As an interesting fact, according to the website the original agreement has been signed on June 25th, 1998.


Legal Updates

Meliisa Johnson have found a new legal counsel, only 5 days before the deadline. She requests another 30 days extension to go through the documents with the new representatives.

Raymone Bain wants to apellate in her case against the Estate. She blames her previous legal counsel for missing out important dates and misleading her. Bain admits that she offered 40% of the money awarded by the court if the attornerys will win the case. She met with John Branca on October 6th, 2009 in the hope for peacefully settling the case. However her than counsel advised her not to accept any offers from the Estate. The Estate rejected her creditors claim on April 6th, 2010.
Bain claims that she is in good relationship with the Jackson Family, helping them with other issues, and attended the ceremony for MJ's first anniversary.
The Judge granted a 14 days extension for filing her papers.


More About The 273 Jackson Master Tapes

It's been reported in the media that Howard Mann, Katherine Jackson's new business partner bought a warehouse of Jackson memorablia including 273 tapes of unreleased Jackson songs.

According to my information these are the same memorablias as owned by Henry Vaccaro, who is in several litigations over the items. Vaccaro claims in a June 30th, 2010 court paper that his company (Vintage Associates LLC) still owns the property. He most likely owns the above mentioned master tapes as well, as a result of a 2009 settlement with it's previous holder.

This means that Mann couldn't buy the songs, but most likely teamed up with Vaccaro and others to exploit the warehouse's content. For that purpose three new entities has been setup in California (VINTAGE POP MEDIA GROUP, LLC - VINTAGE POP MEDIA MUSIC, LLC - VINTAGE POP MEDIA ONLINE, LLC). No information on the exact ownership of these companies.

More to come on vintagepopmedia.com

More New Michael Jackson Song Titles

I have found some more new Michael Jackson musical song titles, all owned by the Estate.

Bottom Of My Heart
Butter Funk
Children's Hour
Green Hornet Groove
I Love You More
King Tutankhamun
Lovin You
Photographs 2 (Instrumental)
Pray For Peace (Instrumental)
Shut Up And Dance.
That (Instrumental)
Think Twice (Instrumental)
Walk Away (Instrumental)
You Are There (Instrumental)

As well some loops and ideas of MJ from last year:
MJ / BB Orchestral Idea #1.
MJ / BB Orchestral Idea #3.
MJ / BB Orchestral Idea #2.
Brad Loop 3700
Brad Loop 3.3.7 MJ
Michael's Affirmation (Instrumental)