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Michael Jackson copyright dispute settled

By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 11:45 AM EDT, Wed September 5, 2012
Michael Jackson's estate accepted a $2.5 million in damages for misappropriation of images and lyrics.
Michael Jackson's estate accepted a $2.5 million in damages for misappropriation of images and lyrics.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Companies involved agree to pay the estate $2.5 million for copyright violations
  • "This settlement seems appropriate for all concerned," Jackson's estate says
  • Jackson estate accused Howard Mann of "wholesale misappropriation" of copyrights
  • Mann's company published Katherine Jackson's book "Never Can Say Goodbye"

Los Angeles (CNN) -- A bitter legal dispute between Michael Jackson's estate and a business partner of the late pop icon's mother was settled Tuesday, just before a trial on the matter was to begin, lawyers said.

In the end, the lawyer for Katherine Jackson, who was not a party to the lawsuit, mediated the agreement, which gives the estate $2.5 million from the several companies involved.

A federal judge had already ruled that Howard Mann and several associated companies violated Jackson's copyrights, which are controlled by his estate executors, and the only question for a jury was how much should be paid in damages.

"In light of the court's rulings for the estate on summary judgment, this settlement seems appropriate for all concerned," estate lawyers Howard Weitzman and Zia Modabber said in a statement to CNN on Tuesday.

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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.

"This was a long, complex and difficult litigation that in the end will likely be equitable for Mrs. Jackson and the other parties involved," Mann said. "This settlement would not have been possible without Perry Sanders (Katherine Jackson's lawyer), who worked to bridge quite a distance."

"I really really appreciated the reasonableness of all parties involved, and everyone is served well by getting this wrapped up," said Sanders, who helped mediate the settlement this week.

The resolution of the dispute represents a new twist in the contentious relationship between the executors who control Michael Jackson's estate and the members of the Jackson family and some of their business associates.

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Mann's involvement with the Jacksons began when he partnered with Henry Vaccaro, who bought a large amount of Jackson memorabilia purchased at an auction after Katherine and Joe Jackson's 1999 bankruptcy. A lien will be placed on those photos and other assets until a portion of the settlement is paid, a lawyer said.

Katherine Jackson was not a defendant, but her name and those of her husband, Joe Jackson, and children Janet, Randy, Tito and Jermaine Jackson were on the defense witness list.

The estate accused Mann of "wholesale misappropriation" of Michael Jackson copyrights and acting with "arrogant disregard" for the estate's rights by using unauthorized images

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 copyright violations also included 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.

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