On June 30, 2016 there was a hearing about the anti-SLAPP motion. (Lawsuits brought to scare, harass and intimidate defendants or restraint of business is called SLAPP.  The motions filed by the defendants against such cases are called anti-SLAPP.) In order to succeed in their anti-SLAPP motion defendants will need to prove that the statements they made (and mentioned in the complaint) are protected under the right of free speech in connection with an issue of public interest.

Unexpectedly the newly assigned judge to the case refused to issue a formal ruling on the anti-SLAPP motions. As a first step parties have agreed to determine whether the statements in question (Sony Statement, Weitzman statement, album back cover, album video statement, Cascio’s at Oprah) were commercial speech or not. Judge refused to do such determination. Judge also mentioned that even she considered the anti-SLAPP motion, she would be inclined to deny it as the statements could be potentially misleading for reasonable consumers.

At this time, this is a huge win for the plaintiff MJ Fan. The judge told the parties to move on and start the class certification. This means the case survived the first dismissal attempt and the case will move forward with class discovery.

However most probably defendants (Sony, MJ Estate, Cascio, Porte) aren’t happy with judge’s refusal to issue a formal ruling on the anti-SLAPP motions. Zia Modabber said during the hearing “Whether or not these are Michael Jackson’s vocals is irrelevant. If it is noncommercial speech, we win, it’s over.” If statements in question are noncommercial speech, they would be protected by constitutional right under freedom of speech. Defendants also mentioned that a class discovery and certification before determining if the statements are commercial or not would be wasteful.

So what’s next? It would depend on the actions of the defendants. Will they do what the judge said and continue to the next step in a class action lawsuit? Or given they didn’t get a formal ruling in their anti-SLAPP motions would they pursue to get a ruling on that matter? Given a favorable ruling can end this case for the defendants, it’s quite likely that they may appeal this decision. In a few months’ time we will have a better idea about how this case will proceed.

In the latest update about this case, I had reported that the defendants (Cascio, Porte, Sony and Estate) were planning to file dismissal requests and anti- SLAPP motions. Recently both Cascio/Porte and Sony/ Estate have filed their motions.

Note: Sony/ Estate and Cascio/Porte have different lawyers and therefore filed two separate motions. In this blog post I’ll focus on Sony/ Estate’s demurrer and anti-Slapp motion as it is more detailed. Cascio/Porte motion pretty much repeats the same thing. Motion can be found at this link :  https://www.scribd.com/doc/298495674/Sony-MJ-Estate-Antislapp-Motion

First a little reminder about what is SLAPP and Anti- SLAPP? As I have previously explained “Lawsuits brought to scare, harass and intimidate defendants or restraint of business is called SLAPP.  The motions filed by the defendants against such cases are called anti-SLAPP. In this instance it means that the defendants are planning to argue that the MJ fan who brought this case doesn’t really expect to win the case but brought this case in attempt to silence and intimidate the defendants in order to prevent them from saying that the Cascio songs are performed by MJ. It is possible that the defendants will argue that saying MJ sang these songs are their constitutional right under freedom of speech.

In order to succeed in their anti-SLAPP motion defendants will need to prove that the statements they made (and mentioned in the complaint) are protected under the right of free speech in connection with an issue of public interest.

The statements at issue here are Weitzman’s statement sent to the fan clubs, Sony Music’s statement (sent to the media), statement written at the back of the “Michael” album, statements in a video about the “Michael” album and Cascio’s statements at Oprah show. (See the end of this post for the above mentioned statements.)

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Complaint file : http://www.scribd.com/doc/229471634/MJ-Fan-vs-Sony-MJ-Estate-Cascio-Porte

Original TMZ Story

One irate Michael Jackson fan is suing his Estate because she thinks MJ was not the lead singer on 3 of his songs on the 2010 CD '"Michael"... the first release after his death.

The woman filed the suit today in L.A. claiming she bought the disc in 2011, but didn't hear enough Michael on 3 particular tracks.

In the suit she claims she hired an audio expert to analyze her CD and he determined it was very likely that MJ did not sing lead vocals on "Breaking News", "Monster", "Keep Your Head Up."

The woman wants this to be a class action -- meaning if the allegation is true the Estate would owe money to everyone who bought the full album, or any of the 3 tracks in question.

The Estate's lawyer, Howard Weitzman, has previously said Michael did provide lead vocals for all the tracks on the album.

Update: From The Wrap

Sony had no comment for TheWrap. However, Howard Weitzman, attorney for the Michael Jackson estate, vehemently denied the allegations when contacted by TheWrap, saying that the vocal tracks had been authenticated by multiple experts.
 
“This lawsuit filed 3 ½ years after the album's release we consider to be frivolous. The Estate believes the lead vocals on all tracks of the ‘Michael’ album were sung by Michael Jackson,” Weitzman said in a statement. “Two musicologists and 6 former producers of Michael's prior albums confirmed that it was Michael Jackson's voice on lead vocal.”



 

Original complaint file : http://www.scribd.com/doc/229471634/MJ-Fan-vs-Sony-MJ-Estate-Cascio-Porte

New documents: https://www.scribd.com/doc/293196230/Fan-v-Cascio-Sony-Estate-Joint-Report

and https://www.scribd.com/doc/293196236/Fan-v-Cascio-Sony-Estate-Schedule

In June 2014 a MJ Fan sued Sony, MJ Estate, Cascio and Porte (Defendants) over the “Cascio Songs” used at the “Michael” posthumous album. The case had been on hold for all this time, only showing regular status hearings. Recent documents have shown us what has been happening with this case in the last 1+ year and what to expect for the future.

First information we learn is that parties have engaged in mediation and settlement talks but the settlement talks came to a deadlock. With no possibility of settlement, parties restarted the case process.

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