The HBO production, slated to air next month, centers on two men who claim to have been abused by Jackson as children.
Michael Jackson’s estate is suing HBO over an upcoming documentary, claiming the network is in breach of contract.
The documentary, writes the Associated Press, centers on allegations made by two men, both of whom accuse the late pop icon of molesting them as children. Entitled ‘Leaving Neverland,’ the production is slated to air in March.
However, the Jackson estate claims that HBO is breaking a decades-old contract.
That contract, notes the A.P., gave channels like HBO the right to air “Michael Jackson in Concert in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour.” Contained within was language restricting and future disparagement of Jackson.
“In those non-disparagement provisions, HBO promised that ‘HBO shall not make any disparaging remarks concerning Performer or any of his representatives, agents, or business practices or do any act that may harm or disparage or cause to lower in esteem the reputation or public image of Performer,’” the suit says. “Other provisions in the Agreement require HBO to notify and consult with Jackson and Optimum Productions if it wishes to air additional programming about Jackson.”
And the documentary may imply that Jackson molested the boys on the same tour the concert footage came from.
“It’s hard to imagine a more direct violation of the non-disparagement clause,” says the lawsuit, which is asking the courts to order arbitration. The Jackson estate estimates that damages could exceed $100 million.
In a statement released to Rolling Stone, Jackson attorneys blasted the documentary as ‘unvetted propaganda.’ They, along with the lawsuit, maintain the late King of Pop’s innocence, pointing to court investigations and testimony from the two alleged victims that “Mr. Jackson did nothing inappropriate to either of them.”
Jackson, relates the suit, was acquitted following a criminal trial in 2005.
The lawsuit also lashed out at Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed, who it accuses of “violating every rule of responsible journalism and documentary filmmaking,” purportedly “refusing to talk to anyone whose statements might not fit the storyline of the fictional film he was dead-set on making.”
Attorneys say HBO refused to meet with the Jackson estate to “discuss problems” in the film.
Despite the lawsuit, HBO says it plans to release the documentary as planned.
“Dan Reed is an award-winning filmmaker who has carefully documented these survivors’ accounts,” HBO said in a statement. “People should reserve judgment until they see the film.”
Reed, adds the Associated Press, isn’t named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
The complaint relays criticisms made of both alleged victims by many Michael Jackson fans: that they’ve offered inconsistent testimony, lied on the stand and changed their story after the singer died.
“Michael is an easy target because he is not here to defend himself, and the law does not protect the deceased from defamation, no matter how extreme the lies are,” the lawsuit says. “Michael may not have lived his life according to society’s norms, but genius and eccentricity are not crimes.”