Michael Jackson Estate Tries to Shut Down Vegas Casino’s Tribute Show

Posted on: January 19, 2024, 05:07h. 

Last updated on: January 23, 2024, 06:51h.

The estate of Michael Jackson is threatening to shut down plans for a long-running Las Vegas tribute show to hit the road. But the producers of “MJ Live” at the Tropicana think they can beat it.

The estate of Michael Jackson claims that this advertisement, shown on the Tropicana marquee, uses trademarks that it owns. (Image: Jalles Franca/Facebook)

This week, the tribute show’s attorneys filed a complaint in Nevada federal court, asking a judge to be allowed to continue staging the production, which runs six nights a week at the Tropicana.

According to court records, the Jackson estate claims the show uses Jackson’s likeness without permission, in addition to trademarks owned by the estate in its ads.

However, the production’s Tropicana show is not the issue. Under Nevada law, likenesses of celebrities are permitted to be used by “impersonators in live performances.” The Jackson estate only seeks to stop the show’s current plans to tour California, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

As for the ads, attorneys for the the show’s producer claim the artwork they use to sell tickets is distinct and causes no confusion for the public.

Jalles Franca stars as the late king of pop — alternately, with impersonator Santana Jackson — in “MJ Live.” (Image: Jalles Franca/Facebook)

Who’s  Bad?

Attorneys for the show’s producers note that the show has been performed more than 3,600 times since 2012, most recently at the Strat before the Tropicana. Yet the estate has only recently began sending cease-and-desist orders.

By using the “MJ Live” name for so long, producers claim, the show has developed its own claims to it, and, in fact, it’s actually the Michael Jackson estate that’s infringing on their intellectual property by currently touring a stage show called “MJ The Musical” across the U.S.

“Over the past eleven and one-half years … plaintiff has spent millions of dollars advertising and promoting its MJ Live show,” “MJ Live’s” lawyers write. “Plaintiff estimates that over 2,500,000 audience members, clapping and singing in their seats, jumping to their feet, and dancing in the aisles, have experienced the joy, excitement, and thrill of ‘MJ Live.’”

Jonathan Steinsapir, an attorney for the Jackson estate, sent Casino.org the following rebuttal:

“This lawsuit — including the claim that this impersonator show somehow owns a ‘trademark’ in ‘MJ,’ a trademark owned by Michael Jackson’s Estate and long associated with Michael and his Estate — is beyond frivolous. The Estate, as always, will vigorously defend all intellectual property rights of Michael Jackson.”

This isn’t the first time the estate of an iconic singer has tried to crack down on Vegas impersonators. In May 2022, Authentic Brands Group (ABG), which owns Elvis’ likeness, send cease-and-desists to multiple chapels, demanding that their Elvis impersonators be licensed by ABG to “safeguard” Presley’s legacy.

No lawsuit was ever filed, because a month later, several chapels agreed to pay an undisclosed annual licensing fee that is believed to be smaller than what ABG initially demanded.