Lawsuit accuses Fox News of copyright infringement

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former adviser to Michael Jackson sued Fox News on Thursday for copyright infringement, claiming the cable channel aired portions of an interview with the singer’s ex-wife without proper payment or permission.

The lawsuit in federal court by producer F. Marc Schaffel seeks damages from Fox News for airing portions of the 2003 interview with Debbie Rowe after Jackson’s death in June. The filing states the interview made up a significant amount of Geraldo Rivera’s July 5 show.

Schaffel, who once sued Jackson and won a judgment against him, owns the copyright to the Rowe interview. Portions of the interview were aired on the Fox network in 2003 as part of a special intended to balance out a damaging interview aired earlier that year.

A spokesman for Fox News, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., said the channel does not comment on pending litigation. The lawsuit states Fox News has claimed a “fair use” right to air the footage as part of news programming.

The filing chides Murdoch, who has threatened to sue the British Broadcasting Corp. and others for copyright infringement because he claims they are stealing content from his company’s newspapers.

“Fox sanctimoniously operates unencumbered by the very copyright restrictions it seeks to impose on its competitors,” the lawsuit states.

Schaffel owns the copyright to two tapes containing the 2003 interview with Rowe, according to copyright records. Portions of the interview were part of a special titled, “Take Two: The Footage You Were Never Meant to See.” It aired on Fox after Disney-owned ABC aired an interview with Jackson by Martin Bashir in which the singer spoke about allowing children to sleep in his bed at Neverland Ranch but that the practice was non-sexual.

Schaffel won a split judgment against Jackson in 2006 after suing over work that included producing footage for the 2003 Fox special. A jury awarded Schaffel $900,000, but also awarded the pop singer $200,000 as part of a countersuit.