The April 2016 death of Prince revealed the high-stakes nature of estate planning when music publishing rights and recording contracts are involved. While that case continues to wind through probate court, two more musical icons are named in another lawsuit. However, while they once united in musical masterpieces, the legal action is hitting quite a different chord.
Quincy Jones collaborating with Michael Jackson has become Quincy Jones versus Michael Jackson. One potential juror referred to the battle between musical geniuses as a tragedy. It would be a reference that would get that particular juror excused from duty.
Both sides are embroiled in a legal fight that started in 2013 over projects and other deals that used Quincy Jones-produced albums following Jackson’s 2009 death. The works included “This Is It,” a film about Jackson, two Cirque du Soleil productions, and album re-releases.
Jones is claiming that MJJ Productions owes him $30 million in unpaid royalties, some from Michael Jackson’s iconic hits. His lawsuit alleges that the projects breached agreements from 1978 and 1985 that gave him first option to remix or remaster the records he originally produced. Jones is also accusing Sony and MJJ of deliberately creating complex deals to give more money to the Jackson estate and less to him.
After the trial finally commenced on July 11, Jones’ lawyer claimed that MJJ and Sony received a payday, but not his client who was entitled to benefit from post-2009 arrangements. The attorney representing MJJ did concede that audits showed Jones was underpaid due to the old contracts. However, the money he is owed from the estate represents a fraction of what his lawsuit claims.
The attorney for Michael Jackson’s estate pointed out an obvious fact that seemed to question Jones’ true intentions. The actual dealmaker is no longer alive and the jury will only hear one account.
The trial is expected to last three weeks.