Michael Jackson estate wins 'Leaving Neverland' appeal against HBO

Leaving Neverland (Credit: HBO)
Leaving Neverland (HBO)

The Michael Jackson estate has won an appeal against HBO over the broadcast of the documentary Leaving Neverland.

In the documentary, directed by British filmmaker Dan Reed, Jackson was accused of the sexual abuse of two boys, Wade Robson and James Safechuck.

However, on broadcast of the documentary in 2019 on HBO – and on Channel 4 in the UK – the Jackson estate claimed that HBO had breached a legal agreement that had been established when it showed his 1992 concert movie Dangerous.

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At the time, HBO had agreed to a 'non-disparagement' clause, with the Jackson estate consequently suing the US broadcaster for $100m.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday upheld the Jackson estate's appeal, and while it conceded that the suit was 'frivolous', it will now allow the case to be heard via a private arbitration.

PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 25:  Director Dan Reed speaks onstage during the 'Leaving Neverland' Premiere during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival at Egyptian Theatre on January 25, 2019 in Park City, Utah.  (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images)
Director Dan Reed speaks onstage during the Leaving Neverland premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. (Getty Images)

“The contract contained a broad arbitration clause that covers claims that HBO disparaged Jackson in violation of ongoing confidentiality obligations,” the court panel ruled.

“We may only identify whether the parties agreed to arbitrate such claims; it is for the arbitrator to decide whether those claims are meritorious.”

The estate's lawyers, Howard Weitzman and Jonathan Steinsapir, said in a statement: “In the court's own words, HBO agreed that it would not make any disparaging remarks concerning Jackson.

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“It's time for HBO to answer for its violation of its obligations to Michael Jackson.”

HBO has argued that the non-disparagement clause is no longer relevant, and has accused the Jackson estate of trying to silence the accusers.

According to reports, Reed, who also made the feature documentaries Terror In Mumbai and the BAFTA-winning The Pedophile Hunter, is filming the court hearings for a follow-up film.

Watch: Leaving Neverland director making a sequel film