*A production company is suing celeb gossip site TMZ.com over the use of an interview with Michael Jackson’s ex-wife Debbie Rowe.
F. Marc Schaffel Productions says it’s the owner of the 2003 interview with Rowe – some of which aired that year while other portions were held back as private and confidential, subject to a joint consent agreement between the interviewer and interviewee. [Watch portion of interview below.]
In the lawsuit filed Monday in California District Court, Schaffel accuses TMZ of stealing the confidential footage and broadcasting it without permission.
After Jackson was indicted for child molestation in December 2003, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff obtained and executed a search warrant on Schaffel’s home and seized the interview tapes. Two years later, the County Sheriff claimed that he returned the property and hadn’t released the “confidential outtakes” to anyone.
But last July, TMZ broadcast those confidential outtakes that included a conversation where Rowe talks about needing sedatives. The plaintiff says that Rowe’s comments were made in the context of a joke about stage fright, but taken by TMZ to tie past drug use to Jackson’s death from a prescription-drug overdose.
After TMZ aired the interview, Schaffel and Rowe demanded that the confidential outtakes be removed. TMZ first claimed the video was sourced from a British TV station, but then said it came from the Santa Barbara Sherriff’s Department. The plaintiff says that when confronted, TMZ rescinded the story and claimed its source was confidential.
Schaffel is now seeking damages from TMZ over copyright infringement and conversion. Schaffel says the confidential outtakes have “an estimated value of potentially millions of dollars, the exact amount of which shall be proved at trial.”
Schaffel also sued Fox News last month for airing the interview. Details of a possible lawsuit against TMZ were first reported by Hollywood Reporter blogger Roger Friedman last August.