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Quincy Jones Sues Michael Jackson Estate for $10 Million Plus

Claims unpaid royalties, credit for posthumous versions of his work

It never reads well in print when a living icon sues a dead one. Nevertheless, on Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, legendary music producer Quincy Jones filed a $10 million lawsuit against the estate of King of Pop Michael Jackson relating to alleged unpaid royalties from several projects released after Jackson’s death, as first revealed by The Hollywood Reporter.

As is usually the case, the business agreements behind the suit are complicated, but let’s try to unravel a short version of it. The lawsuit specifically takes aim at Sony Music Entertainment and MJJ Productions (the song company run by Jackson’s estate), claiming that certain tunes originally produced by Jones that appear in the documentary film This Is It, the 25th anniversary edition of Bad, and the Michael Jackson-themed Cirque du Soleil shows were re-edited so as to cut Jones out of owed royalties and production fees.

As we understand it, the disagreement stems from contracts Michael Jackson signed with Quincy Jones back in 1978 and 1985 regarding the former’s solo work. The contracts supposedly give Jones first crack at re-editing and/or remixing the masters, as well as giving him production credit and certain back-end royalties on future remixes. These are the stipulations Jones claims have been violated by MMJ and Sony. In the suit, Jones is asking for $10 million in damages for breach of contract, plus the unpaid royalties and re-mixing fees that he claims the original contracts attribute to him.

Jackson’s estate released an official statement that “to the best of its knowledge, Mr. Jones has been appropriately compensated over approximately 35 years for his work with Michael.”

Jones’ attorney Henry Gradstein offered a simple explanation for the filing of the complaint: “Quincy has been frustrated with these matters for a number of years, felt he was not making any progress and needed to take more formal action.”

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About the Author


David Tillman is an independent composer/arranger whose primary work involves writing jingles for commercials for radio and television, with several film and television placements to his credit as well. David has a fascination for all things related to the music business and the music industry in general, an obsession which his wife finds to be mildly unhealthy at times. His personal tastes in music are in electronica and industrial rock, and include The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk and Nine Inch Nails (he loves that Trent Reznor is writing soundtracks!). When not in his office or in his man-cave, David enjoys skiing, hiking, the occasional game of golf, and sometimes just lounging by the pool. David lives with his wife and three children in Los Angeles, CA.

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