Ripping Off The Fans

Looking for Michael Jackson memorabilia is easy. Finding officially authorized merchandise, well, that may be a problem.

Oh, sure, there’s plenty of MJ merch to go around. The estate has plenty of items as does concert promoter AEG Live, the company behind the 50 shows Jackson was scheduled to perform at London’s O2. Then there are other official channels, like Bravado – Universal Music Group’s retailing division.

But there are also plenty of knock-offs, including T-shirts displaying the wrong date of Jackson’s death, while others don’t even have collars.

“In the piracy and anti-counterfeiting world, this is as big as it gets,” Mark Roesler said. “It’s a daunting task for the rights holders to get on top of this.”

Roesler knows of which he speaks. As chief exec of CMG Worldwide, he is the business agent authorized to represent merchandising for the estates of many deceased celebs, including Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.

Photo: AP Photo
A vendor glues sequins on white gloves he is selling for $10 a pair  outside the gates of Neverland Ranch.

Jackson’s sudden death on June 25 has brought the hucksters out of the woodwork. Associated Press reports a handful of vendors are hawking unauthorized Jackson memorabilia, including the aforementioned collarless and T-shirts, out in the open on “Santee Alley” in downtown Los Angeles.

One storeowner responded to a reporter’s question by asking if the scribe was with the FBI. Once satisfied the reporter was for real, the owner bragged about selling 2,000 T-shirts within one week.

But it doesn’t stop with street vendors. Several vendors are selling Jackson merchandise on Amazon. The online retailer removes unauthorized items once it is notified by the rights holders, but that doesn’t stop sellers from making quick bucks selling knock-offs before the estate’s representatives take notice and shut them down.

What makes matters worse for Jackson’s estate is that he never got around to registering “King of Pop” as a trademark. Furthermore, while he did register “Michael Jackson” as a trademark, that applies only to recordings, videos and movies involving entertainment and movies.

The bottom line is there’s plenty of MJ merch out there – authentic and bogus – and it’s going to be tough for fans to discern the fakes from the real deals.

Click here for the complete Associated Press article.