Billboard Awards defend Michael Jackson hologram

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tech companies have filed an emergency lawsuit to prevent the Billboard Music Awards from using their patents to project a Michael Jackson hologram at this weekend’s show.

Hologram USA Inc. and Musion Das Hologram Ltd. sued Jackson’s estate and dick clark productions in federal court over technology known for digitally resurrecting deceased rapper Tupac Shakur at the 2012 Coachella music festival.

A lawyer representing the show’s producers and Jackson’s estate responded to the suit Friday by stating that if the virtual performance from the King of Pop were blocked, they would be irreparably harmed.

Judge Kent Dawson held a brief hearing Friday afternoon in a Nevada federal court and said he would rule on the case by the end of the day.

Plans to use the hologram during the show Sunday emerged with the lawsuit. Show producers still haven’t confirmed that they plan to feature a 3-D image of Jackson, but they had been promoting a “history-making performance” at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena that would promote the singer’s latest posthumous album, “Xscape.”

Attorney Michael Feder, representing the show and Jackson estate, said in his filed response that the holographic performance has been planned for months and had been discussed with Alki David, who owns the rights to the technology that creates and projects lifelike images to appear alongside live performers through Hologram USA and Musion.

Howard Weitzman, an attorney for Jackson’s estate, called the lawsuit in a statement “ludicrous” and said it had “no merit.”

Hologram USA and Musion say one of their products is being used without authorization by a competitor to create a segment that depicts Jackson performing a new song, “Slave to the Rhythm.”

Hologram USA obtained the rights to the patents after the bankruptcy of Florida effects house Digital Domain, which created the Shakur performance to wide acclaim two years ago.

The lawsuit also names John C. Textor, the chairman of Florida-based Pulse Entertainment Corp. who was the former head of Digital Domain. Pulse is accused of using the hologram techniques without a proper license. A phone message left for Textor was not immediately returned.

The lawsuit names Atlanta-based Pulse Entertainment Inc. as a defendant. Ken S. Johnson said the company was listed incorrectly because it had no connection the Billboard Music Awards.

In March, Hologram USA sued Cirque du Soleil and MGM Resorts International over its show, “Michael Jackson ONE” at Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino. The show features a performance by a digital rendition of Jackson, which the company also contends is an unlicensed use of its technology.

The case is being handled in a Los Angeles federal court and Cirque du Soleil and MGM Resorts have been granted an extension until May 23 to respond to the lawsuit.

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