Quincy Jones Awarded $9.42 Million in Michael Jackson Case

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Quincy JonesA jury awarded music producer Quincy Jones $9.42 million in a dispute over royalties for Michael Jackson’s music.

As Variety reports, Jones, now 84, filed suit in 2013, seeking $30 million. He alleged that the Jackson estate had violated his contract and that he was excluded from deals the estate had made after Jackson’s death to use Jackson’s music.

This is It

Specifically, Jones said that he had been underpaid royalties for the use of Jackson’s music in the 2009 concert documentary This is It and in Cirque du Soleil shows.

The case turned on the interpretation of two contracts between Jones and Jackson involving Jackson’s albums  “Off the Wall,” “Thriller,” and “Bad.” 

Jones produced the three albums with Jackson between 1979 and 1987. 

According to the New York Times, “Jackson and Mr. Jones had one of the most fruitful relationships in pop music history.”

The albums Jones produced for Jackson sold tens of millions of copies and made Jackson a pop superstar.

At trial, the Jackson estate tried to play down Jones’s role in the success of the albums.

The Producer’s Role

According to the Times,

Mr. Jones said that the producer’s role was crucial and that he had sifted through 800 songs to find the material that ended up on “Thriller,” which included seven Top 10 hits.

A great song, Mr. Jones testified, “can make the worst artist in the world a star.

Jackson died of a prescription drug overdose in 2009 while preparing for the concert depicted in This is It.

Pop Royalty

Variety reported that the dispute centered on the meaning of the word “royalty.”

According to the Guardian, it also involved the meaning of the word “videoshow.”

Under the contracts, Jones is entitled to a share of net receipts from a “videoshow” of the songs.

Jackson’s estate argued that this term was meant to apply to only music videos and not feature motion pictures such as the documentary.

Jones’s lawyer argued, and the jury apparently agreed, that when the Jackson estate renegotiated a deal with Sony Music in 2009 Jones was left out.

Jones contended that he was entitled to royalties on remixes of the songs that he didn’t do.

Remix

According to his lawyer, this is

Because they didn’t give [Jones] the opportunity. Both contracts said that Michael Jackson will not allow anyone to do any remixes until [Jones is] given the opportunity. No one called, wrote, or gave him that opportunity — and Quincy has been doing remixes in the very recent past, up until 2016.  So if you have an obligation like that, and you don’t fulfill it, you can’t get around it because he didn’t do [the remixes]. It was a complete failure by the estate — they were his productions of 29 songs and Michael would not have wanted someone else to be tampering with them.

The Jackson estate announced that it planned to appeal the verdict.


Photo Credit: Quincy Jones @ CES, Las Vegas, Tim Carter, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

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