Michael Jackson’s estate and Sony settle lawsuit over songs by ‘impersonator’

Michael Jackson’s estate and Sony Music have reached a settlement to end a long-running lawsuit over claims that the record label violated false advertising laws by releasing a posthumous album featuring songs sung by an impersonator.

Sony Music and the estate said that both parties had agreed to formally end the lawsuit, Billboard reported.

The deal came as the two sides were awaiting a decision by the California supreme court, which heard arguments on the case in May.

It comes a month after Sony pulled the disputed tracks – Breaking News, Keep Your Head Up and Monster, from the 2010 album Michael – from streaming platforms.

In a joint statement to Billboard, Sony and the late singer’s estate said: “Regardless of how the supreme court may rule, the parties to the lawsuit mutually decided to end the litigation, which would have potentially included additional appeals and a lengthy trial court process.”

They added that removing the songs was “the simplest and best way to move beyond the conversation associated with these tracks once and for all”.

Neither side provided any details on the terms of the agreement.

The three disputed tracks were produced and recorded by Jackson’s friend Eddie Cascio, who made assurances that it was the “king of pop” behind the microphone.

A lawsuit was filed in 2014 by Vera Serova, accusing Cascio and his production company Angelikson Productions LLC of creating fake songs and then selling them through Jackson’s estate and Sony Music entertainment. Angelikson and Cascio denied the claims.

Serova alleges that the vocals were by an impersonator called Jason Malachi, who appeared to admit he performed on the songs in a Facebook post from 2011, which his manager later said was faked.

At the high court, Serova argued that Sony did not have a first amendment right to mislead consumers about the album’s contents, calling the outcome “patently absurd” and warning of “perilous consequences”.

Sony and the estate argued that their decision to attribute the songs to Jackson had been protected speech made amid an “ongoing public debate”, not false labelling of a product.

In 2014, Jackson’s estate and Sony Music were cleared from a class-action lawsuit to determine whether the three songs were sung by a Jackson impersonator.

Jackson died in June 2009, aged 50, at his home in Los Angeles.