Noval Williams Films and MJ Estate are having a dispute about footage of two MJ photo shoots in 2007. Noval Williams Films created a documentary that includes the previously unseen behind the scenes footage of the photo shoots, MJ photographs and interviews with people who were involved in the photo shoots. Before the release of the documentary MJ Estate raised concerns about copyrights of the photographs and footage used in the video and MJ Estate may have some rights to them. After seeing the documentary MJ Estate claimed co-ownership of some photographs. MJ Estate also stated they are unaware of any MJ signed release agreement that would allow the footage commercially released without MJ Estate’s consent. Noval Williams Films went to court asking for declaratory relief that they haven’t infringed any copyrights and MJ Estate has no valid claims.

MJ Estate have filed two motions; a motion to dismiss the case or in alternative move it to California and motion to disqualify Noval Williams Films attorney Markovich. Before I go into the details of these two motions, I’ll list the new information/ what we learned from the recent documents:

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Summary of the initial complaint and few letter exchanges added as exhibits:

Parties :

Noval Williams Films / Craig Williams – Plaintiff.

MJ Estate - Defendant.

Third party who shot the footage – never identified but MJ Estate believes it to be Green Flame Media.

Lightning Entertainment - who has a sales agency agreement with Noval Williams Films

Summary

- In 2007 MJ took part in two photo shoots.  Noval Williams Films claims MJ authorized a third party to videotape both photo shoots and the third party is the copyright owner.  Part of the footage has been released publicly or commercially in November 2007.

- In July 2011, a lawyer representing the third party who shot the footage contacted Karen Langford from MJ Estate to sell the footage to MJ Estate.  They showed portions of it to MJ Estate. They asked $250,000 to buy it, additional $250,000 for limited commercial usage (less than 10 minutes) and additional $750,000 to have full rights (so a total of $1.25 Million).  Estate did not purchase it.

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Original article: The Hollywood Reporter. Click here

Craig Williams seeks to confirm his company has valid rights on unseen footage from a 2007 photo shoot.

The production company behind Michael Jackson: The Last Photo Shoot has filed a lawsuit against the executors of the late singer's estate.

At the center of this dispute is never-before-seen footage taken of Jackson in 2007, two years before he died.

Craig Williams, the film's director, has described the footage as having been taken at the Brooklyn Museum of Art for Ebony magazine as Jackson attempted to make a comeback and gave his first magazine interview in a decade. Michael Jackson: The Last Photo Shoot features interviews with the singer's friends, photographers and stylists as Jackson prepared. The documentary also shows, of course, images of Jackson.

But Howard Weitzman, attorney for the Michael Jackson estate, tells The Hollywood Reporter that the images are private.

"The makers of the documentary are attempting to exploit footage and photographs of Michael Jackson, which we believe are owned by his Estate," says Weitzman. "The documentary contains footage of Michael during private moments that he never agreed could be publicly and commercially exploited without his consent and/or involvement. Michael never authorized or approved the use of this material in the film.”

Noval Williams Films asserts that it has validly obtained rights.

According to its complaint filed in New York federal court, the Jackson camp was offered the opportunity to purchase rights in 2011, but passed. In May, 2013, Williams stepped up to allegedly acquire rights. More deals were then made by Williams' company with distributors.
But about two months ago, Weitzman wrote a letter to the production company stating that the singer had allowed the footage be taken for his own use and that the footage was done as a "work-for-hire," meaning that Jackson should be considered the author for copyright purposes.

The production company responded that it had legally acquired rights, prompting the Jackson estate lawyer to make another demand to see the film.

Now, the documentary maker has decided to go to court seeking declaratory relief that it isn't infringing copyrights and that the defendant doesn't have a valid claim arising from the contracts by which the images were first created.