The Alleged Story Of Plagiarism made against Michael Jackson
We do not know many things about Michael Jackson, and much of what we know sometimes is pretty incorrect. He was too often flanked by teams of so-called public relations officers who seemed to do their best to help the press to bring out negative or fake news all over the world. Perhaps the youngsters do not know it, but back in 1992, Michael Jackson was accused of plagiarism. The issue ended up in court. Another false story his PR/legal entourage failed to dab still today’s. And still today this singer keep on dubious and very smart innuendos on this matter, followed up by a disingenuous and disinformed Italian media.
- In 1992 Michael Jackson was accused of plagiarism by an Italian singer named Albano Carrisi. The strange affair seems to have happened after the son of this singer listened to the song “Will you be there” and found a strong resemblance with a song his father composed in 1987 called “I cigni di Balaka (The Balaka swans) sang together with his former wife Romina Power. Michael ‘s song was published on November 26, 1991, on the “Dangerous” album and sold around 32 million copies worldwide.
- Following Albano charges in 1994, the Civil District Court of Rome ordered the withdrawal of Michael’s album from the Italian market and Sony had to re-issue a new album version without the faulty song. In Italy, plagiarism is a criminal offense, so the lawsuit went on both civil and criminal.
- However, in 1997 following MJ’s deposition which had taken place at the District Court of Rome, it was revoked the 1994 seizure order because it was missing, as a matter of fact, reliable and convincing proof that Michael had been even aware of Albano’s music. A few months later, the Court of Milan ruled that there was not a real plagiarism as both songs were devoid of originality being inspired by an old American blues piece by then “copyright free”.
On that occasion, Albano was sentenced to pay all court expenses but then in May 1999, the Criminal Judge in Rome, sided with Albano after the experts compared the songs and noticed the presence of as many as 37 consecutive identical notes in the choruses. For these reasons the plagiarism was established and Michael was sentenced to pay a fine of four million lire (the former Italian currency) which was about $4000 US.
Yes! 4000 dollars, not million how wrongly the US and UK media spread around! It was not granted the request of five billion of Italian lira (about 5 million US dollars) requested by Albano for the damages suffered.
Meanwhile and again in the month of November of the same year, Milan Court of Appeal confirmed the 1999 sentence which proclaimed the songs in question devoid of originality so no plagiarism was made by MJ. In simple words, the Court denied protecting the song “I cigni di Balaka”. The track of Albano was devoid of the creative character required by law to access protection. No plagiarism then, of the song “Will you be there” by Michael Jackson. It was clarified that both artists, without knowing, composed their songs based on their personal musical knowledge.
Albano again was sentenced to pay all court expenses since he was the one who initiated the lawsuit. It seems Michael helped with it. The legal issue, however, could have ended up in the Supreme Court, but the two artists made a confidential agreement that led to the final closure of the matter. Later Albano told the media about an agreement reached between them for a concert in favor of the abused children in the world, which has never happened. And MJ NEVER mentioned such a possibility’.
- Finally in 2001, ended also the criminal prosecution in Rome which overturned the 1999 judgment resulting in the final acquittal for MJ of the accusation of a plagiarism crime.
The requirement for the protection of intellectual property in the field of copyright is the creative character of the work. In general terms, the creative character is to be connected to the concepts of novelty (in an objective sense) and originality such as to allow a differentiation with respect to pre-existing works.
Based of the Albano-Michael Jackson case, it is necessary to underline the qualitative difference between the requirement of novelty and that of originality, which means that only the new works, that differ from the pre-existing ones and that reach a certain threshold of expressive capacity would be protected by copyright.
The idea of both songs was taken from an old African American song of the group “The Ink Spots” devoid of copyright, “Bless You For Being An Angel” dated 1939. Listen to the below links and you will catch immediately the similarities:
Actually, the similarities are more between the original song of the “Ink Spots” and Michael’s “Will you be there”.
How could Michael Jackson know Albano song “I Cigni di Balaka? NO WAY. It was fully confirmed in Court that Michael Jackson had no idea of his music and existence.
At that time the Italian Michael Jackson fans did not believe this story and they sent an informal warning to the singer due to his unclear statements.
Still, after so many years the “maestro” Albano go on television and insist on his not transparent and equivocal statements. What can it be his purpose? Make the audience believe that the'”agreement” with the confidentiality clause, was intended to stop the lawsuit? Pretty impossible due to the judgment in court that might be very close to the real course of the events as Michael was unaware of the existence of Albano and even less of his music, never been published in the United States.
The Italian singer was also the subject of funny gigs by a well-known Italian entertainer, Riccardo Rossi, who started the gig telling to the audience:
“It ‘s something crazy and absurd… you remember very well this strange thing that one day Albano thought MJ had copied one of his songs …a crazy thing..so it came out in the news, there was a legal issue and everything else. For this reason, I would like to remind all of you WHO Michael Jackson IS:
- MJ is someone that has among his collaborators Paul Mc Cartney who gave to him a song as a gift … then he has Stevie Wonder who go to play harmonica for him even if for just a few notes. He ‘s got Quincy Jones, the largest producer of black music of all times who produced for him his first three albums one of which, I remind you, is Thriller which is the best-selling album in the history of the world of music, so I wonder …how Michael Jackson even know that Albano exists????”
He carries on his sketch imagining a Quincy Jones, who must be informed of all tendencies in music due of his work, that for some strange reason listens and decides to bring this piece of crap of Albano song to Michael Jackson. When finally the two decide how to arrange the song and everything’s organized MJ refuses to pay royalties to Albano. While the audience doubled over with waves of laughter “MJ” says “I do not care, I want to copy“, and Quincy Jones screaming at him: “Michael it will cost $400, the rights for this song for God sake! MJ: “NO I want to copy if not I don’t do it”.
The gig ends with the comedian saying: “MJ, the man who bought the rights to all the Beatles songs, decided to steal a song from Albano in order to save $400 LMAO ???
A strange story in which, probably, Albano tried, since there was a real similarity between the two songs, to get a bit of free advertising in the world.
The only positive note of this whole issue goes in favor of MJ collectors: actually, only the Italian “Dangerous” album contains 13 tracks instead of 14 worldwide.
It is a precious piece especially because it is not known exactly how many copies actually exist. However, it remains quite difficult to find, especially for foreign collectors. A small fortune for who owns it now.