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Cleveland Orchestra Sues Michael Jackson Over ‘Dangerous’

April 24, 1992

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Cleveland Orchestra sued Michael Jackson on Friday for allegedly using its recording of a Beethoven symphony on his ″Dangerous″ album.

The copyright infringement lawsuit in federal court seeks at least $7 million from Jackson and his company, MJJ Productions. Also named are his record label, Epic Records, and Epic’s parent company, Sony Music Entertainment Inc.

A 67-second choral snippet from Beethoven’s ″Symphony No. 9,″ ″uniquely interpreted and conducted by the late George Szell,″ is heard at the beginning of Jackson’s song, ″Will You Be There,″ according to the lawsuit.

″We respect Michael Jackson’s innovative efforts to integrate pop and classical music,″ said Thomas Morris, the orchestra’s executive director.

But he charged the ensemble received no credit or compensation. The orchestra recorded the symphony in 1961 for Columbia Record’s Masterworks label. Sony bought Columbia in 1988.

Jackson’s attorney, Bertram Fields, said he didn’t know which recording of the symphony Jackson used.

Although Beethoven’s music is in the public domain, individual recordings of it can be copyrighted.

Fields said he believed the use of the excerpt was permitted. In addition, Sony knew what Jackson was doing and didn’t object, he said.

″This is Sony’s deal,″ Fields said. ″Sony acted for both the orchestra and MJJ Productions. If some permission should have been obtained and wasn’t, that is Sony’s responsibility.″

Calls to Sony Music were referred to the legal department. A message left there was not immediately returned.

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