Quincy Jones Files $10M Lawsuit Over Michael Jackson Music (Exclusive)

The Hollywood Reporter
Quincy Jones Files $10M Lawsuit Over Michael Jackson Music (Exclusive)
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Quincy Jones Files $10M Lawsuit Over Michael Jackson Music (Exclusive)

Quincy Jones has filed a $10 million breach-of-contract lawsuit in connection with Michael Jackson projects released after the singer's death.

The legendary music producer who has won 27 Grammy Awards and produced the King of Pop's best-selling albums including Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad, is going to war with Sony Music Entertainment and MJJ Productions, a song company controlled by the icon's estate. At issue are works including the This is It film and soundtrack album, the Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil productions and the 25th anniversary edition of the Bad album.

In a complaint filed on Friday in LA Superior Court, Jones alleges that master recordings he worked on were wrongfully edited and remixed so as to deprive him of back-end participation and credit. Jones also asserts that he has been denied credit for his work on the singer's posthumous releases and that MJJ and Sony have entered into side deals taking profits that should have been included in the calculation of royalties.

“Quincy has been frustrated with these matters for a number of years, felt he was not making any progress and needed to take more formal action," says Henry Gradstein, his attorney.

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Jones made agreements with Jackson in 1978 and 1985 for work on the singer's solo albums. The contracts are said to have stipulated that he be given the first opportunity to re-edit or re-mix any of the master recordings, that the coupling of master recordings with other recordings required his prior written consent and that he be given producer credit for each of the master recordings. The deal also entitled the producer to additional compensation -- including upfront payment and a "backend" percentage -- in the event of remixed masters.

After the producer was hired, Jackson signed a recording agreement with Epic Records, a subsidiary of Sony. The record deal entitled Jones to payments, credit, the approval of biographical material and regular accounting. Jones contends that he is a third party beneficiary of this recording agreement.

After Jackson's death on June 25, 2009, the King of Pop had a resurgence of popularity, and the executors of his estate and those who had control over his work attempted to exploit the public's appetite for new works. That October, Columbia Pictures released This is It, from AEG Live and The Michael Jackson Company, which showed preparations for what would have been the singer's last tour. Two years later, Cirque du Soleil premiered a traveling theatrical show entitled "Michael Jackson: The Immortal Tour," which has grossed an estimated $300 million to date. Soundtracks for both the film and the Cirque du Soleil production were also released.

The lawsuit states Jones' belief that Jackson parties "secretly entered into a venture agreement with Sony" where Sony and the Jackson Label would share profits. But Jones also alleges that rights to the master recordings "reverted from Sony to MJJ" and albums featuring the performances of Jackson were "distributed by the Jackson Label, instead of Sony, including albums embodying one or more of the Masters."

Thus, the defendants are charged with an effort to "divert" revenues to MJJ and "disguis[ing]" the revenues as "profits" instead of "royalties."

According to the lawsuit, "By removing such Disguised Royalties from the pool of revenues upon which Jones' royalties are calculated, MJJ purposely reduces the royalties… payable to Jones under both of the Agreements."

More to come.

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