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Michael Jackson, IP, and Culture

So first I must admit I am not a huge fan of Michael Jackson. What? Yes. No! I’m afraid so. That being said, for all the oddity that occurred in the later part of his life the man and his work highlight some interesting points in IP and culture. Thriller is the best selling album of all time. In other words, he may have been the pinnacle of the old music industry model (selling 1 million copies a week is probably impossible today). In addition, Mr. Jackson’s videos are often credited as breaking the color barrier on MTV. That shift opened the door to many other artists being able to reach the MTV audience. He also combined different genres such as funk, pop, disco, soul, and R&B to achieve a unique sound that influenced many artists and audiences around the world. In short, one may want to dig into all the full range of his work from the Jackson Five era and his solo career. There promises to be forgotten or less listened to gems merely because Thriller was such a dominant album. For me the album and song Off the Wall (which I reference in Information Privacy when teaching Kyllo) is a great example of pre-Thriller excellent work. Last, the mashups and parodies inspired by Mr. Jackson are rather good too. Examples of Fred Astaire meets Michael Jackson which works quite well (hat tip John Scalzi) and Weird Al are below the fold.

Here is the link for Off The Wall.

And while we are at it check out Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough to see the early moves and seeds of the Thriller-man to come.

The YouTube video for Eat It is here (embed disabled) which is unfortunate and foolish but I recommend watching it.

2 thoughts on “Michael Jackson, IP, and Culture”

  1. Don’t forget his ownership of ATV Music and control of the Beatles catalog — and the fact that Jackson’s share of what is now the ATV/Sony joint venture are security for a huge loan. It’s MJ as business owner and investor, rather than MJ as artist, that is likely to have a more lasting impact on copyright law. Depending on how that loan gets worked out via Jackson’s estate or otherwise, the separation of copyright ownership from creative authorship, which gives the law its distinctive cast, may get much, much more complicated.

  2. At least I have company. Although I’m less respectful…


    And I fully concur with Professor Madison’s analysis; Jackson’s ownership interest in the Beatles catalog was indirectly tied up in the twenty-year-long absence of the good version of The Lathe of Heaven… which was arguably behind the production of “bad art” by the SciFi channel, as I doubt that the awful remake would have been attempted had the earlier PBS production received the wide and enduring distribution it deserved.

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