Los Angeles (CNN) — A trial to decide how much a business partner of Michael Jackson’s mother must pay the late entertainer’s estate for violating his copyrights in a book about the Jackson family starts in Los Angeles Tuesday.
Although Katherine Jackson’s book about her son, published two years ago, is central to the lawsuit, the Jackson family matriarch is not a defendant. Her name and those of husband Joe Jackson and children Janet, Randy, Tito and Jermaine Jackson are on the defense witness list.
Jackson’s estate accused Howard Mann and his company of “wholesale misappropriation” of Michael Jackson copyrights, acting with “arrogant disregard” for the estate’s rights.
Mann’s company published Katherine Jackson’s 150-page coffee table book “Never Can Say Goodbye, The Katherine Jackson Story” two years ago and established a website — MichaelJacksonSecretVault.com — that the estate argued illegally used Jackson’s images and lyrics.
A federal judge already ruled Mann was liable and set this week’s trial for a jury to decide how much in damages should be paid to the Jackson estate.
While the estate claimed the book sold about 25,000 copies for $1.5 million in the first two days, Mann’s lawyers contended “actual sales are very minimal and the defendant’s businesses have suffered a major net loss.”
The jury must decide the fair market value of the copyrights, including for screen shots from the “This Is It” documentary about the singer’s last days and other “misappropriated” images, including Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal Lean,” which Mann’s company used in its corporate logo.
Mann’s website, which the judge already ordered to be taken offline, “does absolutely everything in its power to suggest to its visitors that it is the hub for all things Michael Jackson, and that it is sanctioned and supported by the estate, when in fact it is neither,” the estate argued.
The book, published on the first anniversary of the pop icon’s death, included a “special thanks” to the estate, which the estate argued was “a calculated and deceitful effort to imply to the reader that the estate cooperated.”
The judge ruled the defense could not call into question the legitimacy of Jackson’s will or its executors during the trial. They previously argued that the control was Jackson’s estate was in question.