Michael Jackson has been dead for more than a decade at this point, but the complications surrounding his life and legacy so far seem functionally immortal; take, as an example, a tentative finding handed down by a judge today, dismissing HBO’s attempts to ward off the Jackson estate’s desire to enter arbitration over the airing of Leaving Neverland. The estate alleges that the network’s decision to show the docuseries—which recounts, in-depth, accusations of sexual assault against the pop star by then-minors James Safechuck and Wade Robson, and which reignited questions about the status of Jackson’s legacy—violated the non-disparagement stipulations of a 26-year-old contract between Jackson and HBO.
HBO’s argument in the case so far has been, essentially, “Hey, come on”; the company’s lawyers argue that the contract, pegged to the release of a concert film of the Dangerous tour in 1992, is only being leveraged as a weapon now to chill free speech. But Judge George Wu sided with the estate, even as he noted that his decision had a decent chance of being appealed. He also, though, made it clear that he doesn’t necessarview this conversation as being about victims so much as it is a pissing contest between two large, moneyed organizations: “You’re a big company, they’re a wealthy estate,” he told HBO’s lawyers. “It’s a clash of the titans.”