Corte app. 2001 ( Rome, It.)
Comment by Charles Cronin
Perhaps the proximity between Rome’s Corte di Appello and the city’s Teatro dell’Opera contributed to the buffa character of this quarrel between the Italian pop singer “Al Bano” (Albano Carrisi) and the late, erstwhile, “King of Pop,” Michael Jackson.
Thus far we have obtained, from the various Italian courts of first instance and appeals that entertained this dispute for the better part of a decade, only the 1999 judgment of the Corte d’Appello Milano (below). This judgment appears to anticipate many of the arguments of the final Rome court decision as related in popular press articles about the dispute. The observations here are based on several Italian news stories, including Carlo Moretti’s La Repubblica article (Feb. 20, 2022) discussing Al Bano’s revisiting the dispute while recently performing at a singing competition in San Marino.
In the first judgment in this dispute the Rome court of first instance determined Jackson had copied Carrisi’s song, ordered Sony to cease distribution of Jackson’s song in Italy, and for Jackson to pay Carrisi four million lire, and the costs of litigation. The appeals in the nine years following this judgment introduced several novel legal arguments and issues. The Rome appeals court overturned the judgment of the initial court of first instance based, in part, on its finding that it was highly improbably Jackson could have known about Carrisi’s song before writing his own. The final judgment, years later, by the same court follows this approach when it declares there was no basis for the claim because Carrisi himself in creating his song, had copied an earlier work, “Bless you”, a number authored by Americans Eddie Lane and Don Baker in 1939, the copyright of which was now owned by Sony. This determination, in turn, prompted Sony to allege that both Carrisi and Jackson had infringed upon “Bless you”. Jackson, however, had previously merged his publishing company with Sony and, arguably, had thereby become an owner of “Bless you”.
After the Rome appeals court judgement of 2001, Carissi made the conciliatory proposition that Jackson and he perform together, each singing his own song (presumably not simultaneously). One must wonder the extent to which this suggestion was influenced by Carissi’s knowledge that Jackson would be a much greater draw than he for their live performances, even in Italy, and concert proceeds should readily cover the attorney fees he incurred during this benighted quest. In any event, a performance by this duo never occurred: at the time Jackson was dealing with even more disagreeable legal quandaries in Los Angeles involving pederasty allegations.
Judgment, Corte di Appello, Milano (Nov. 24, 1999) (attenzione! in italiano): PDF