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Entertainment law: Jackson's estate claims HBO breached contract

The terms of a contract can have a tremendous impact on the way business is conducted in the entertainment industry. This means that those who fail to take active steps to protect their rights may see themselves being taken advantage of. For this reason, those engaged in the entertainment industry, especially when it comes to contracts, should carefully consider seeking out legal assistance before moving forward with an agreement.

To see an example of the power of contracts in the entertainment context, one need only look at a recent lawsuit filed by Michael Jackson's estate against HBO. The lawsuit centers on a 1992 contract between the parties whereby HBO agreed not to disparage Jackson's image or reputation, or the image or reputation of his agents or music. Jackson's estate claims that HBO's upcoming two-part series, Leaving Neverland, which focuses on accounts from two man who have accused Jackson of molestation, breaches the terms of that 1992 contract. There may be as much as $100 million at stake in this case.

Jackson's estate claims that the interviews in the documentary are financially motivated. It states that the men testified that they were never molested by Jackson, but they later changed their stories after they found themselves facing financial turmoil. These facts may be immaterial to the lawsuit, though, as a court will merely have to consider the parameters of the 1992 contract and whether the new film is in fact disparaging. HBO intends to air the show as intended.

High-stakes matters like these are not uncommon in the entertainment industry. Skilled legal arguments need to be presented when breach of contract issues arise. In order to avoid these matters, though, an individuals should ensure that the terms of these contracts are sufficiently negotiated with an eye on both the short- and long-term ramifications. Experienced entertainment law attorneys stand ready to help individuals who find themselves facing these matters.

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