Quincy Jones' Royalties Dispute With Michael Jackson Estate Inches Toward Trial

One music icon and the estate of another are set to go to trial Feb. 21.
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Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones' breach of contract claims involving posthumous Michael Jackson releases will proceed to trial next month, after a judge on Wednesday denied a motion for summary judgment.

The fight began in 2013 when Jones sued Sony Entertainment and MJJ Productions, a song company controlled by the King of Pop's estate, claiming master recordings he produced were wrongfully edited and remixed to deprive him of backend profit participation. The works at issue including the This Is It film and soundtrack album and the 25th anniversary edition of Bad.

Zia Modabber, attorney for MJJ, argued that Jones is trying to pass off breach of contract damages claims as separate causes of action.

In a Wednesday morning hearing, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael L. Stern said the case isn't as clear cut as Modabber would like. He says issues concerning the contracts between Jones and MJJ require the examination of extrinsic evidence before they can be resolved. Stern has questions specifically in regard to whether the parties' deal precludes Jones from being paid more favorably than Jackson himself, whether revenue from digital downloads should be treated as those of licenses or sales, and whether Jones is entitled to royalties from broadcast public performances and SoundExchange revenue.

The judge said he's been hearing the same arguments from the beginning of the case and still believes the issues are ripe for trial. "I hate to sound trite, but it really is déjà vu all over again," he said Stern. (Stern denied a previous summary judgment motion last February.)

Trial is currently set for Feb. 21.

Jones is represented by Robert Allen and J. Michael Hennigan of McKool Smith. MJJ is also represented by Howard Weitzman and Jonathan Steinsapir of Kinsella Weitzman and Tami Sims and Leah Solomon of Katten Muchin Rosenman. Sony is represented by Mitchell Kamin and Jonathan Sperling of Covington & Burling.

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