LOS ANGELES (CN) – The producer of a videotaped interview with Debbie Rowe, the mother of two of the late Michael Jackson’s children, claims that entertainment Web site TMZ.com published confidential footage from a stolen, copyrighted 2003 video in which Rowe discussed her relationship with Jackson. The outtakes depict Rowe “joking about using sedation to combat stage fright that was never intended to be publicly disclosed,” according to the federal complaint.
F. Marc Schaffel Productions says Schaffel and Rowe demanded that TMZ reveal the source of the footage after “TMZ obtained and broadcast previously unpublished video outtakes … which were never intended for public disclosure.”
The complaint states: “Schaffel and Rowe were stunned and distressed that TMZ, in a misguided attempt at gallows humor, broadcast the confidential outtakes, attempting to tie a 2003 joke by Rowe about drug use to Jackson’s tragic death from a drug overdose.”
Schaffel says TMZ published the confidential outtakes on July 20, 2009. After Schaffel and Rowe objected, TMZ agreed to remove the confidential outtakes “and agreed to provide the source for the video,” according to the complaint.
It adds: “On July 24, 2009, TMZ removed the confidential outtakes from further broadcast and agreed to provide the source for the video. TMZ then identified the source of the confidential outtakes as the County Sheriff.”
Michael Jackson was accused in Santa Barbara County of child molestation, in December 2003. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff executed a search warrant on Schaffel’s home in January 2004 and seized “various videotapes and computer hard drives, some of which included the interview,” according to Schaffel’s complaint.
But the sheriff “vehemently denied being the source of the confidential outtakes for TMZ,” and “on July 30, 2009, TMZ retracted its prior statement, and stated that the confidential outtakes had been obtained from another third party source, which TMZ refused to identify,” according to the complaint.
Schaffel says TMZ’s broadcast of the confidential outtakes has damaged his reputation and “diminished the ability of Schaffel to attract subjects for production in the entertainment industry and has diminished the ability of Schaffel to license, distribute, or otherwise exploit the confidential outtakes in the even Schaffel and Rowe consented to same.”
Schaffel seeks damages for copyright infringement, conversion, and injury to his business reputation and business.
He is represented by Howard King with King, Holmes, Paterno and Berliner.