A California appeals court has now ruled that the statements do not constitute commercial speech.
Michael Jackson’s estate administrators and Sony Music bosses have beaten a class action lawsuit over the potential use of impersonators on the 2010 album Michael.
Music fan Vera Serova filed the suit, accusing music bosses of duping the public by completing the album with King of Pop sound-alikes. She claimed the move was punishable under California’s Unfair Competition Law and the Consumers Legal Remedies Act.
A judge initially refused to stop the lawsuit, concluding that statements on the album cover amounted to commercial speech subject to regulation, but a California appeals court has now ruled that the statements do not constitute commercial speech.
As a result Sony Music bosses will never have to reveal if the voice on the Michael songs belong solely to the tragic pop superstar, who died in 2009.
The lawmakers’ final ruling reads: “We conclude that the challenged representation – that Michael Jackson was the lead singer on the three Disputed Tracks – did not simply promote sale of the album, but also stated a position on a disputed issue of public interest.
“The identity of the artist on the three Disputed Tracks was a controversial issue of interest to Michael Jackson fans and others who care about his musical legacy. The identity of the lead singer was also integral to the artistic significance of the songs themselves. Under these circumstances, Appellants’ statements about the identity of the artist were not simply commercial speech but were subject to full First Amendment protection. They are therefore outside the scope of an actionable unfair competition or consumer protection claim in the case”.
Last week, ends August 24, a Sony lawyer had to clarify a statement made by a colleague during a hearing, when it was reported he had hinted that three songs were recorded with a Jackson impersonator.
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