Singer Michael Jackson and three others did not steal the hit songs “Thriller ,””The Girl Is Mine” and “We Are the World” from two other songwriters, a federal jury ruled Wednesday.
After four hours of deliberation, the nine-member jury agreed with defense lawyers that the songs bore little resemblance to the works of the plaintiffs in the copyright infringement trial.
“We felt all along the songs did not sound the same, and the jury recognized that,” said Robert Rotstein, a copyright lawyer with Rosenfeld, Meyer & Sussman.
Rotstein, who represented Jackson and two other co-defendants, singer Lionel Richie and producer Quincy Jones, hopes the verdict sends a message.”The verdict shows that Michael was innocent of the charges, and that there was absolutely no merit to the suit. Those who try to sue celebrities should be wary that (the entertainers) may fight back.”
Songwriter Rod Temperton, also co-defendant with Jackson, was represented by attorneys Gerry Margolis and Steve Blackman.
The six-year case began when aspiring songwriters Reynaud Jones, a childhood acquaintance of Jackson, and Robert Smith alleged that parts of their songs were pirated for the three Jackson hits.
Jones claimed the 1985 African famine relief anthem was based on his 1977 song, “What Will Become of the Children.”
Jones also contended “World” co-writer Lionel Richie, “Thriller” songwriter Temperton and Jones also lifted part of the duo’s demo tape, which had been left with the Jackson family.
Jackson did not attend the three-week trial, but testified in a deposition videotaped in Mexico City Nov. 8 and 10 just days before cancelling his “Dangerous” tour.
In the deposition, Jackson demonstrated how the songs were composed, but often stumbled through familiar passages, his mannerisms sluggish and speech slurred.
Howard Manning Jr., the plaintiffs’ attorney, had previously said that Jackson appeared fine during the deposition, responding to claims by then Jackson-attorney Bert Fields that the singer was unable to fully participate in the questioning. Manning did not return calls seeking comment on Wednesday’s verdict.