Posted on: January 19, 2024, 05:07h.
Last updated on: January 19, 2024, 05:09h.
The estate of Michael Jackson is threatening to shut down a long-running Las Vegas tribute show. But the producers of “MJ Live” at the Tropicana think they can beat it.
This week, the tribute show’s attorneys filed a complaint in Nevada federal court, asking a judge to be allowed to continue staging the production, which runs six nights a week at the Tropicana.
The Jackson estate claims the show uses Jackson’s likeness without permission, in addition to trademarks owned by the estate in its ads.
According to legal documents first obtained and reported by Billboard magazine, the show’s attorneys argue that neither claim has merit. They say they’re allowed to feature Jackson impersonators because, according to Nevada law, likenesses of celebrities are permitted to be used by “impersonators in live performances.”
In addition, the attorneys claim, the artwork they use to promote the show is distinct and causes no confusion for the public.
However, the show is going on the road. So the estate’s attempts to shut down shows scheduled for California, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin may not be covered by this court’s decision.
Attorneys for the show’s producers note that it has been performed more than 3,600 times since 2012, most recently at the Strat before the Tropicana. Yet the estate has only recently began sending cease-and-desist orders.
By using the “MJ Live” name for so long, they claim, the show has developed its own claims to it, and, in fact, it’s actually the Jackson estate that’s infringing on their intellectual property by currently touring a stage show called “MJ The Musical” across the US.
“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 write. “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.’”
This isn’t the first time the estate of an iconic singer has tried to crack down on Vegas impersonators. In May 2002, Authentic Brands Group (ABG), which owns Elvis’ likeness, send cease-and-desists to multiple chapels, demanding that their Elvis impersonators be licensed by ABG to “safeguard” Presley’s legacy.
No lawsuit was ever filed, because a month later, several chapels agreed to pay an undisclosed annual licensing fee that is believed to be smaller than what ABG initially demanded.