‘MJ Live’ have argued they have the legal right to impersonate the King of Pop
On Wednesday (January 17), the organisers of MJ Live filed a complaint to the Nevada federal court, requesting the judge rule they could continue their concerts. MJ Live performs six nights a week at the Tropicana; along with other venues, the show has been performed over 3,600 times since 2012.
However, MJ Live claims that the Jackson estate has recently begun threatening to sue the impersonators. They alleged that the estate sent cease-and-desist letters to other venues, demanding they cancel MJ Live’s forthcoming shows. MJ Live’s lawyers called this “intentional and wrongful interference” that was “intended to harm Plaintiff.”
MJ Live argued that they had a legal right to impersonate Jackson, both due to the First Amendment and Nevada’s unusual state likeness laws. Nevada allows the use of a celebrity’s likeness by “impersonators in live performances” due to Las Vegas’ long tradition of Elvis Presley impersonators.
They further claimed that the group has developed their own trademark rights due to performing under the MJ Live name for more than a decade. They go on to allege that the Jackson estate has instead infringed upon their intellectual property, even pointing to the estate’s recent use of ‘MJ The Musical’ as an infringement of their rights
“Over the past eleven and one-half years, plaintiff has spent millions of dollars advertising and promoting its MJ Live show,” MJ Live’s lawyers wrote. “Plaintiff estimates that over 2,500,000 audience members, clapping and singing in their seats, jumping to their feet, and dancing in the aisles, have experienced the joy, excitement, and thrill of MJ Live.”
In a comment to Billboard, Jackson estate attorney Jonathan Steinsapir said: “This lawsuit—including the claim that this impersonator show somehow owns a ‘trademark’ in ‘MJ,’ a trademark owned by Michael Jackson’s estate and long associated with Michael and his estate—is beyond frivolous. The estate, as always, will vigorously defend all intellectual property rights of Michael Jackson.”
In other news, Michael Jackson’s biopic is due to come out soon