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Fake Michael Jackson Songs Lawsuit Boosted by Support from Consumer Protection Groups

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A legal quest for justice over a posthumous Michael Jackson album including 3 allegedly-fake songs has received a serendipitous boost on the 10th anniversary of the album’s release.

On Friday, December 11, 2020, the Berkeley Center for Consumer Law and Economic Justice filed an amicus curiae brief with the California Supreme Court in support of plaintiff Vera Serova’s ongoing class action consumer fraud lawsuit against Sony Music and the Estate of Michael Jackson.

The powerfully-worded brief was co-signed by 8 additional consumer protection organisations. Click here to read it in full.

Serova’s lawsuit, filed in 2014, alleges that Sony and the Estate misled her and millions of consumers when they commercially released the Michael album on December 14, 2010 – exactly ten years ago today.

The lawsuit alleges that three songs on the album are forgeries sung by an impostor vocalist, and that Sony and the Estate falsely advertised those songs to consumers as authentic Jackson material.

The three songs at the centre of the lawsuit – Breaking News, Monster and Keep Your Head Up – were originally co-written and produced by Eddie Cascio and James Porte, who are co-defendants in the fraud component of the case.

The consumer protection organisations wrote in their joint filing on Friday that Serova’s is a “straightforward case of deceptive advertising.”

Yet the case has been in legal limbo for more than four years.

Back in 2016, Sony and the Estate filed an anti-SLAPP motion against Serova, claiming that her lawsuit was a ‘strategic lawsuit against public participation’ (SLAPP) intended to deny the billion-dollar corporations their purported constitutional right to sell fake songs as authentic Jackson material.

For the purposes of their legal arguments, Sony and the Estate conceded that Jackson was not the singer of the three songs in question. To be clear, this was not an outright admission that Jackson was not singing – after 6 years in court, that issue hasn’t even been addressed yet.

Rather, their concession was made in order to prevent Serova from presenting evidence that the songs are fakes. Under normal circumstances, Serova would have been required to demonstrate that her case wasn’t a shakedown, and that she could substantiate her claims with supporting evidence.

But Sony and the Estate said that it didn’t matter if they were fake, arguing that the law allows them to lie to consumers regardless.

Their argument centres around their assertion that the statements made as part of the album’s promotional material – including on the album cover and in a TV commercial – are not commercial in nature. Yes, they’re arguing that the speech in a commercial isn’t commercial speech.

“If we ripped people off and it’s noncommercial speech, they lose under the statutes,” said Sony lawyer Zia Modabber in court. “That is just the law.”

In August 2018, the corporations succeeded in their bid to be dismissed from the case. Serova fought back, petitioning the California Supreme Court to intervene, which they did. But when the case was sent back to the Appeals Court in January 2020, Sony and the Estate were yet again dismissed.

Shockingly, the Appeals Court ruled that Sony and the Estate should be allowed to lie to consumers by selling fake songs as authentic Jackson material. And so Serova petitioned the California Supreme Court a second time, seeking a review of the Appeals Court’s bizarre ruling.

As reported here in April, the Supreme Court found that the Appeals Court’s ruling was legally problematic and granted Serova’s petition for review.

In their filing on Friday, the consumer protection organisations supporting Serova’s case took aim at Sony and the Estate’s application of the anti-SLAPP statute, writing that it “does not provide a get-out-of-jail-free card to forgers.”

Under the stipulation governing this proceeding, Sony’s promotion of Michael plainly violates California’s statutes protecting consumers from false and misleading advertising. Sony marketed Michael as “a brand new album from the greatest artist of all time,” with “9 previously unreleased vocal tracks performed by Michael Jackson.” Because, as the parties have agreed for purposes of this appeal, three of the nine songs were not sung by Michael Jackson, Sony has made advertising statements that were untrue and misleading and has therefore violated California’s basic consumer protection laws.

Amicus curiae brief, Berkeley Center for Consumer Law and Economic Justice et al., December 11, 2020.

The anti-SLAPP statute is intended to protect David from Goliath – to shield the general public against the limitless funds and resources of wealthy corporations, and to prevent those corporations from intimidating the public into abandoning legal action against them.

The consumer protection organisations state in their filing that Sony and the Estate have misused the anti-SLAPP statute to achieve the exact opposite of its intended purpose:

What the present proceeding entails is the misuse of the anti-SLAPP statute by a well-funded corporation to try to silence individual consumer claims arising from what are conceded to be, for purposes of this appeal, the corporation’s misleading commercial statements. In other words, this action embodies precisely the reverse of what the anti-SLAPP statute is intended to accomplish.

The consumer protection organisations concluded their 47-page filing with the following:

The anti-SLAPP statute must not be misused to undermine California’s consumer protection laws. When Sony promoted Michael, it engaged in misleading or deceptive advertising. Sony has no free speech right to deceive consumers. Ms. Serova’s claim for misleading advertising is not a “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” To the contrary: it is a straightforward deceptive advertising action brought to vindicate precisely the individual rights that both California’s consumer protection laws and its anti-SLAPP statute are designed to protect.

The California Attorney General’s Office has also stepped in, requesting an extension to file their own amicus brief in support of Serova.

This means that when the California Supreme Court hears Serova’s case sometime next year, she will not only have the support of at least 9 independent consumer protection organisations, but also the backing of the California state government.

UPDATE: The Los Angeles City Attorney’s office has also joined the chorus of support behind Serova’s case, formally requesting an extension to file an amicus brief on December 14, 2020.

Stay tuned for further updates on the case. This website will continue to provide information as it becomes available.

You can also subscribe to the upcoming Faking Michael podcast series about this matter. A release date has not yet been set, but subscribers will have episodes delivered to them when they do become available.

The trailer for Faking Michael is available on Apple PodcastsSpotify and YouTube.


Damien Shields is the author of the book Michael Jackson: Songs & Stories From The Vault examining the King of Pop’s creative process, and the producer of the podcast The Genesis of Thriller which takes you inside the recording studio as Jackson and his team create the biggest selling album in music history.
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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Retroarcademan

    December 14, 2020 at 2:27 pm

    2 years since the Faking Michael trailer was released. Im a patient man but… 🙂

  2. Robin

    December 14, 2020 at 11:06 pm

    I simply can’t wait for this podcast series, looking forward to the dissection and analysis of it all. Thank you for your continued hard work in getting the truth out there, in Michael’s name!!

  3. Shirley Alves

    December 15, 2020 at 12:15 am

    Fraud is fraud. I don’t care who is the fraudster. All I know is Michael Jackson himself would NEVER have gone along with this deception nor allow his Estate, his friends, his companies and his record company to deceive his beloved fans around the world and not be punished!!

    There is no magic in lies!

    Go Vera Serova!! 👍🏼👍🏼💖

    All music lovers and even artists themselves deserve HONESTY and a GUARANTEE that an album or song said to be of a certain artist REALLY IS by said artist!! Otherwise, the entire industry will suffer! All confidence in records labels and record execs will be lost! Credibility and product integrity is crucial!

    Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should ANYONE be allowed to deceive the public in this way!

    NO record label should be allowed to knowingly release fake songs!!

    Imagine if there were impersonator Elvis or Beatles songs released?!! No friggin way this would be permitted nor this case dismissed in court!!

    So sick of this abuse!
    When it comes to Michael Jackson, it seems to be rampant!! Especially repugnant and egregious is the fact that this was done to a still grieving fan base after Michael’s death. 💔

    We all need justice in this case!

  4. Ahsoka

    December 15, 2020 at 2:19 am

    Great news! And can’t wait to hear your podcast series.

  5. Rasmus Olsen

    December 15, 2020 at 5:55 pm

    Hey Damien

    I use to love your articles (still do).

    But will you ever write about songs you did?

    Best regards from Denmark

    • Rasmus Olsen

      December 15, 2020 at 5:57 pm

      *write about songs like you did years ago? 🙂

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Cascio Tracks

Alleged Forgeries Removed From Michael Jackson’s Online Catalog After 12 Years of Protests and a Fraud Lawsuit

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Three songs alleged to have been falsely attributed to Michael Jackson were abandoned by the pop star’s estate and record company this week after 12 years of fan protests and a consumer fraud lawsuit.

The alleged forgeries – known as the ‘Cascio tracks’ – come from a collection of 12 songs which producers Eddie Cascio and James Porte claim Jackson secretly recorded in Cascio’s basement in the fall of 2007.

The 12 Cascio tracks were sold to Jackson’s estate a year after the pop star’s death, and three of them – “Breaking News,” “Keep Your Head Up” and “Monster” – were officially released by Sony Music on the Michael album in December 2010.

But Jackson’s fans insist the songs are fakes, with vocals sung by an impostor, and they’ve been demanding the tracks be removed from Jackson’s catalog for the past 12 years.

This week, they got their wish, with the controversial songs being removed from streaming platforms around the world. Jackson’s estate also appear to have discontinued the original 10-track CD version of the Michael album, replacing it with a 7-track edition which can now be ordered from their official website.

But according to a joint statement issued by Jackson’s estate and Sony – who are currently co-defendants in a class action lawsuit which alleges that the Cascio tracks are fakes – their decision to abandon the tracks had nothing to do with their disputed authenticity:

“The Estate of Michael Jackson and Sony Music decided to remove the tracks ‘Breaking News,’ ‘Monster’ and ‘Keep Your Head Up,’ from the 2010 ‘Michael’ album as the simplest and best way to move beyond the conversation associated with these tracks once and for all,” reads the statement, adding that “nothing should be read into this action concerning the authenticity of the tracks – it is just time to move beyond the distraction surrounding them.”

But many fans aren’t accepting Sony and the Estate’s position, because the “conversation associated with these tracks” is founded entirely on their disputed authenticity. According to some fans, removing the songs while defending their authenticity is not way to move “beyond the distraction surrounding them.”

And despite the fact that the “conversation associated with these tracks” has persisted relentlessly for 12 years, Sony and the Estate continued to sell the tracks to unwitting consumers throughout that entire period, while reaping millions of dollars from what many believe are brazen forgeries.

Until now.

The Jackson family tried to warn them

Prior to the release of the Michael album in 2010, several members of the Jackson family tried to reason with the Estate, informing them that the vocals on the Cascio tracks were not Michael’s while urging them not to move forward with their release.

Michael’s siblings Randy, Jermaine and Latoya all claimed that the vocals on the tracks did not belong to their brother.

They were ignored.

Michael’s mother – Estate beneficiary and family matriarch, Katherine Jackson – raised her voice against the tracks.

She was also ignored.

Michael’s oldest brother, Jackie Jackson, also came out against the Cascio tracks, revealing that both he and Estate co-executor John McClain had insisted for many weeks that the alleged forgeries should be removed from the album.

Their concerns were “not taken seriously.”

Michael’s nephews Taryll, TJ and Taj from the group 3T also spoke out, taking to social media to dispute the authenticity of the songs and raise awareness regarding some of what went on behind the scenes. 

Once again, their concerns were ignored.

In a statement issued on the 5th of November 2010, Sony asserted their “complete confidence” in the authenticity of the tracks. It was even reported that two independent forensic musicologists had verified that the vocals were Jackson’s.

Fans reject Breaking News

On the 8th of November 2010, five weeks before the Michael album was officially released, Sony unveiled one of the Cascio tracks – “Breaking News” – in a world premiere on Michael Jackson’s website.

When fans heard the track, they revolted. 

Many rejected the notion that Michael was the vocalist while pointing the finger at another singer named Jason Malachi.

But as they’d done with the Jackson family, Sony and the Estate ignored the opinions of fans.

Instead of reconsidering their plan to release the Cascio tracks, the Estate opted to gaslight fans in a statement, claiming that they’d investigated the authenticity of the vocals and believed “without reservation” that they were indeed Michael’s.

The following month the Estate and Sony took things a step further, stipulating in no uncertain terms that the vocals were “performed by Michael Jackson” on the back cover of the Michael album – released in the U.S. on the 14th of December 2010. 

ABOVE: RESERVE SIDE OF MICHAEL ALBUM COVER

They also arranged for Eddie Cascio to defend the authenticity of his songs on the Oprah Winfrey show. The Jackson family, however, were not invited to tell their side of the story.

The lawsuit

In June 2014, Michael Jackson fan Vera Serova filed a class action consumer fraud lawsuit against Jackson’s estate, Sony, Eddie Cascio, James Porte and their production company.

In her lawsuit, Serova alleges that Cascio and Porte are the masterminds of an “elaborate artistic fraud” in which they forged a collection of fake songs, and that Sony and the Estate misled her and others by attributing those forgeries to Michael Jackson on the Michael album.

As part of her lawsuit, Serova demanded the removal of the Cascio tracks from Jackson’s discography – a demand which now seems to have been met.

But despite the Cascio tracks having now been removed, Serova’s lawsuit remains ongoing.

It has been reported by the media this past week that Sony and the Estate won this case in 2018. 

This is simply not true.

In fact, Serova actually won the initial ruling on Sony and the Estate’s involvement in this case back in 2016. At that time, Sony and the Estate had tried to shirk responsibility, but were ordered to face the music by the Los Angeles Superior Court.

But Sony and the Estate felt they’d done nothing wrong and appealed that ruling – an appeal on which they prevailed in 2018.

In turn, Serova fought back, petitioning the California Supreme Court for review.

And based on the Supreme Court’s view that the appeal court’s ruling was legally “problematic,” Serova won her bid for review.

Oral arguments in that review were heard by the state Supreme Court the 24th of May 2022. 

A ruling has not yet been made, but is expected soon.

Sony and the Estate will need to prevail to be officially removed from litigation once and for all. If they don’t prevail, they’ll remain defendants in this case.

As of today (July 7), neither party has definitively prevailed and there is no judgment.

As mentioned, the original producers of the Cascio tracks – Eddie Cascio and James Porte – have also been sued as part of Serova’s lawsuit. They are sued with fraud, and that aspect of the lawsuit also remains ongoing.

You can hear my opinion on the removal of the Cascio tracks and much more below, in a roundtable discussion hosted by Michael Jackson podcast The MJCast:

I am also working on a podcast series called Faking Michael detailing the ins and outs of the Cascio tracks and the Michael album. Subscribe via podcast apps to be alert when episodes are released in the future.


Damien Shields is the author of the book Michael Jackson: Songs & Stories From The Vault examining the King of Pop’s creative process, and the producer of the podcast The Genesis of Thriller which takes you inside the recording studio as Jackson and his team create the biggest selling album in music history.
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Supreme Court Judge Grills Sony Lawyer Over ‘Contradictory’ Arguments in Alleged Michael Jackson Fraud

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A lawyer defending Sony Music and the Estate of Michael Jackson in a consumer fraud lawsuit has today argued that the billion-dollar corporations should be able to sell forgeries to unwitting consumers – without being held liable for doing so.

During the California Supreme Court hearing, which was streamed live around the world, Sony attorney Zia Modabber was pulled up for presenting contradictory arguments when attempting to justify the record company’s false attribution of three songs to Jackson on the 2010 Michael album.

The hearing centred around a class action lawsuit filed by Californian consumer Vera Serova – a Michael Jackson fan who purchased the Michael album under the premise that it was a collection of unreleased songs performed by the King of Pop.

In her lawsuit, Serova contends that three of the songs on Michael – “Breaking News,” “Monster” and “Keep Your Head Up” – are forgeries, and that Jackson’s estate and Sony misled her and millions of consumers around the world by falsely representing those forgeries as authentic Jackson material.

Today’s Supreme Court hearing focused specifically on Sony and the Estate’s culpability in the matter.

The corporations argue that the First Amendment (free speech) gives them the constitutional right to lie to consumers without remedy, and that they should be removed from the lawsuit because of this.

In fact, Sony and the Estate have been petitioning to be removed from this case for 6 years, alleging that plaintiff Serova strategically filed her lawsuit to prevent the record company from exercising their First Amendment right to participate in the public dialogue regarding the authenticity of the songs.

The dialogue in question is the wording on the reverse side of the album cover, which stipulates that the vocals on the album were “performed by Michael Jackson” (see below).

ABOVE: REVERSE SIDE OF MICHAEL ALBUM COVER

In a 2016 hearing regarding this matter, attorney Zia Modabber argued on behalf of Sony and the Estate that if anyone were to be held liable for the fraud it should be the original producers of the songs – Eddie Cascio and James Porte – because they provided them under the false pretence that they were authentic.

Today, in front of seven Supreme Court Justices, Mr. Modabber made the same argument on behalf of Sony and the Estate.

In what was a rollercoaster hearing, Modabber told the court that Sony and the Estate were “100%” certain that the vocals on the songs in question were authentic based on an investigation conducted by former Estate attorney Howard Weitzman in November 2010.

A few minutes later, in a complete about-face, Modabber claimed that neither Sony nor the Estate were in a position to know who sang the vocals – a backflip which Justice Groban took issue with:

“How can it be both? Why is Sony saying with 100% certainty that Michael is the singer if you weren’t certain? Which is essentially what I hear you saying now.”

Mr. Modabber also made a number of arguments throughout his 30-minute presentation which seemed only to benefit plaintiff Serova’s side.

At one point, Modabber explained the identity of the artist is what gives art its meaning and value. In other words, if Michael Jackson wasn’t singing on the songs in question, they’d be irrelevant and worthless:

“The identity of the artist is part and parcel of the art. It imparts meaning to the art.”

The attorney, on behalf of Sony and the Estate, went on to give an example:

“There’s a song that Michael wrote called Leave Me Alone, and it’s about being persecuted by the press. When Michael Jackson sings that song – because it’s Michael Jackson singing it – it gives a certain meaning to that song. If I sang that song – nobody cares about me – it doesn’t have the same meaning as if Michael Jackson sings that song. And that’s why authors and the source of the art are part of – and intimately connected to – the art itself… It undeniably adds to the meaning of the art.”

Without Michael Jackson’s name on the songs in question, they couldn’t commercially exploit them.

Therefore, according to Sony’s logic, the company had no choice other than to falsely attribute the authorship to Jackson in order to give them meaning and value in the eyes of consumers.

In what can only be described and an own goal, Modabber continued by asserting that the consumers of art want to know who the artist is, and that he cannot think of a scenario in which the identity of the artist doesn’t matter:

“Imagine art, out in the world, with no attribution of authorship. Imagine you just didn’t know who it came from or what the source was. It’s not the same. There is a character and a quality and an impact and a curiosity by those who consume the art about where it came from and what the source was. It adds meaning to it. We want to know who it is. We want to know where it came from. We want to know what inspired it. And part of that is the identity of the artist. And so I can’t think of a situation where the identity of the artist doesn’t matter.”

More to come when the California Supreme Court hands down their ruling on this matter.

For those of you who are interested, a podcast series detailing my investigation of this case, called Faking Michael, is currently in production. Subscribe to Faking Michael on Apple PodcastsSpotify or YouTube to be notified when episodes are released.


Damien Shields is the author of the book Michael Jackson: Songs & Stories From The Vault examining the King of Pop’s creative process, and the producer of the podcast The Genesis of Thriller which takes you inside the recording studio as Jackson and his team create the biggest selling album in music history.
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Court Date Set in Supreme Court Battle Over Legal Right to Sell Alleged Michael Jackson Forgeries

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Sony Music and the Estate of Michael Jackson will again fight for their right to sell alleged forgeries as authentic Jackson songs in an oral argument set to be heard by the Supreme Court of California on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.

The hearing centres around a class action lawsuit filed by Californian consumer Vera Serova, who purchased the Michael album – released by Sony and Jackson’s estate in 2010 – under the premise that it was a collection of unreleased songs recorded by pop star Michael Jackson.

In her lawsuit, Serova alleges that three of the songs on Michael are forgeries – sung by an impostor vocalist – and that she, along with millions of fans around the world, were misled when the pop star’s estate and record company falsely represented the tracks as authentic Jackson material in the album’s product labelling and advertising.

The three songs in question – “Breaking News,” “Monster” and “Keep Your Head Up” – were produced by Jackson associates Eddie Cascio and James Porte and are known as the ‘Cascio tracks’.

Cascio, Porte and their production company are also included in the lawsuit – sued by Serova for fraud. The May 24 hearing will not deal with their culpability.

The lawsuit has been in the California court system for almost eight years, since June 2014. For six of those years, Sony and the Estate have argued that it is their constitutional right to sell forgeries under the First Amendment – the right to free speech – and they should therefore not be liable in this case.

In a 2016 hearing, Sony lawyer Zia Modabber argued that if anyone were to be held liable, it should be Cascio and Porte, because they sold the songs to Sony and the Estate under the premise that they were authentic.

After several rulings and subsequent appeals from both sides in the lower courts, the Supreme Court of California will finally decide whether Sony and the Estate should face the music in this case.

If Sony and the Estate can successfully convince the Supreme Court that they should indeed be able to sell forgeries as authentic Jackson material, they will be removed from the case – once and for all.

And if plaintiff Serova prevails, the corporations may be forced to decide between settling the case – which would involve dissociating Jackson from the songs and removing them from record stores and streaming platforms around the world – or defending their actions at trial.

Serova’s position is supported by several consumer advocacy groups and government branches, including the California Attorney General.

In a press release issued on January 29, 2021, the AG said:

“Products must deliver on their claims. If someone buys an album from a recording artist, they should expect that the songs on the album were made by that artist unless noted otherwise… We must hold companies accountable to stand by their products. Companies have a First Amendment right to communicate, but their claims must be informed and accurate.”

Sony is supported by the First Amendment Coalition.

Counsel for both sides will present their oral arguments remotely via video link, while the public will be able to stream the hearing live via the judicial branch website.

Regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding Sony and the Estate’s liability, the fraud component of Serova’s lawsuit against Cascio, Porte and their production company will move forward.

At that time, Serova will finally be able to add the alleged singer of the forgeries, Jason Cupeta, as a defendant to her lawsuit. 

Cupeta is Deputy Sheriff at the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office who goes by the artistic pseudonym Jason Malachi.

Serova first informed the court of her intention to add Cupeta in a March 2018 filing, but has been unable to complete this process due to the case being stayed pending the outcome of the oral arguments set to be heard by the Supreme Court on May 24.

A podcast series detailing my investigation of this case, called Faking Michael, is currently in production. Subscribe to Faking Michael on Apple PodcastsSpotify or YouTube to be notified when episodes are released.


Damien Shields is the author of the book Michael Jackson: Songs & Stories From The Vault examining the King of Pop’s creative process, and the producer of the podcast The Genesis of Thriller which takes you inside the recording studio as Jackson and his team create the biggest selling album in music history.
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