Saturday, April 20, 2024

New Michael Jackson Album May Pose Legal Problems


The newly discovered Michael Jackson album I told you about –exclusively–yesterday may pose some legal problems.

The album was recorded by Michael in the fall of 2007 with Eddie Cascio at his home in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. No one knew about it until earlier this year. Cascio, 28, is the second oldest son of longtime Jackson friends Dominick and Connie Cascio, Michael’s surrogate family.

Yesterday I wondered in this space if Michael’s recordings with Cascio would be covered by his estate’s recent $200 million deal with Sony. I thought maybe not, since no one knew about the tracks at the time of the deal.

But things could get sticky between the Jackson estate and Cascio. I am told that Cascio has engaged a top music entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles, Don Passman. And sources do say that Cascio is “covered,” whatever that means. There’s no word on whether Jackson–who used to put his “M” signature on anything in front of him–signed a piece of paper with Cascio.

There will be some tough questioning by the estate over who wrote the songs Cascio recorded, and whether Michael was their author or co-author. I’m told that may be “covered” as well by copyright registrations.

Indeed, two days after Jackson died–on June 27, 2009–Cascio filed a copyright claim along with Michael Jackson and another songwriter for something called “MJ Songbook.” The filing is just for lyrics. An earlier filing. from March 2008, is labeled “JPEC Collection.” The song titles in each collection are not specified in the Library of Congress’s database, but it’s possible that Cascio updated his 2008 filing after Jackson died to reflect the superstar’s contribution to  material Cascio had already written–and wisely registered.

What everyone who’s heard the tracks agrees on is that Michael Jackson’s vocals sound great. At the time, Jackson was getting good sleep, and lots of Italian homecooking from the Cascios, who are restaurant owners. It was probably the best time Jackson had had since his November 2003 arrest.

Meanwhile, executor John McClain–who’s had health problems is going through some 60 other unreleased tracks, selecting what he thinks are the best ones for a Jackson album to be released this fall by Sony.

McClain is not considered a Clive Davis, really, in the business. But he helped Janet Jackson, whom he grew up with, start her career at A&M Records. And he briefly co-managed Michael in the early Nineties with Trudy Green. McClain, unlike Jackson intimates Frank DiLeo and John Branca, has so far not heard the Cascio tapes, I am told.

“He’s resisting it,” says a source, while he’s busy sorting through those 60 tracks.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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