LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Canadian memorabilia dealer who worked with Michael Jackson’s mother on a tribute book, and whose websites used the singer’s image and music, violated copyrights held by Jackson’s estate, a judge ruled on Friday.
A federal judge in Los Angeles granted an injunction blocking entrepreneur Howard Mann from using the websites “michaeljacksonsecretvault.com” and “MJgives.com” and other similar domain names, saying he had infringed the dead singer’s intellectual property.
“There is undisputed evidence that (Mann) intended in bad faith to profit from use of Jackson’s name, by registering multiple domain names containing his name or the initials ‘MJ’ to sell Jackson-related products,” U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson wrote in his ruling.
The executors of Jackson’s estate filed the case against Mann in January 2011, 18 months after the “Thriller” singer’s sudden death in Los Angeles from an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol.
The estate holds the copyright to Jackson’s image and music for the benefit of the singer’s mother Katherine and his three children.
Judge Pregerson sided with executors, who claimed that the websites run by Mann used copyright protected clips of Jackson’s song “Destiny”, a logo featuring the self-styled “King of Pop” and art from the posthumous concert movie “This Is It”.
Mann has worked with Katherine Jackson on several projects since 2009, including a 2010 “Never Can Say Goodbye” coffee table book featuring recollections of her son, as well as a DVD and calendar featuring what were described as never before seen photos and video.
All were sold through the “secretvault” website. Mann claimed he obtained the rights to the material at a bankruptcy sale involving members of Jackson’s family several years ago.
The “www.michaeljacksonsecretvault.com” site failed to load on Friday and Mann could not immediately be reached for comment.
Howard Weitzman, a lawyer for Jackson’s Estate, said a court date set for September 4 will involve “how much in damages the Michael Jackson Estate is entitled to collect from Mann and his various entities.”
The two executors, John McClain and John Branca, said in a statement they were “extremely pleased” with the Court’s ruling which will prevents Mann from “continuing to unlawfully profit from Michael Jackson and his intellectual property.”
Reporting By Jill Serjeant, Editing by Christine Kearney and David Gregorio