A federal judge has sided with officials from Michael Jackson's estate and ordered their lawsuit against U.S. network HBO head to arbitration.
Representatives of the estate sued HBO chiefs in March, alleging they had violated a 1992 agreement to not "harm or disparage or cause to lower in esteem the reputation of (Jackson)" by agreeing to air the documentary Leaving Neverland, in which two men claimed Jackson had sexually abused them as children.
According to Variety, Los Angeles U.S. District Court Judge George H. Wu ruled on Friday that HBO bosses must adhere to the agreement, meaning the case will now head to arbitration. However, Judge Wu acknowledged the defence will likely appeal the ruling. A status conference has been set for 3 October.
The agreement was originally signed as part of a deal to air a 1992 concert film from the King of Pop's Dangerous tour.
While estate officials slammed HBO for not including their rebuttal to the allegations in the film, network executives argued the case should be dismissed as the contract no longer applies.
Although Leaving Neverland prompted outrage from Jackson's fans and family, the two-part film by British filmmaker Dan Reed won a Creative Arts Emmy for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special earlier this month.
Jackson, who passed away in 2009, was twice investigated over child abuse allegations, reaching a $23 million (£18.5 million) settlement with the family of teenager Jordy Chandler in 1994. He was also acquitted of molesting another teenager, Gavin Arvizo, following a 2005 trial.
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