Michael Jackson was an American musician and entertainer. He is known to have written, recorded and filmed material that has never been officially released. Many of the pop singer’s unreleased songs have been registered—usually by his company Mijac Music—with professional bodies such as the United States Copyright Office, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI), American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA) and EMI Music Publishing. This list, however, only documents the songs explicitly cited as being unreleased and, therefore, does not contain every unreleased Jackson song registered with such bodies.
Jackson — along with Lionel Richie, Quincy Jones, Rod Temperton and Joseph Jackson faced a copyright infringement suit in 1993. The lawsuit came after three songwriters alleged that the pop star and his fellow defendants had plagiarized the hits “The Girl Is Mine”, “Thriller” and “We Are the World”. During a seven-hour deposition, Jackson named numerous unreleased songs that he had written or co-written. Following the testimony, a nine-member jury found the defendants not guilty of plagiarism.
Many officially unreleased Jackson songs had been scheduled, at one point, for release on records by the singer, including his six solo studio albums with music label Epic Records: Off the Wall (1979), Thriller (1982), Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991), HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I (1995) and Invincible (2001). For varying reasons, the tracks were ultimately rejected and, as of 2014, remain unreleased. The pop singer’s unreleased material includes songs recorded by Jackson as a solo artist (including covers of songs released by other artists and The Jackson 5 songs) and demo versions, some featuring established artists such as Freddie Mercury and Barry Gibb.
Several of Jackson’s songs have been leaked onto the Internet without gaining an official release. One example involved the song “A Place with No Name”, a 24-second snippet of which was leaked by website TMZ.com following Jackson’s death in 2009. At the time of the leak, it was claimed that there were “hundreds” of unreleased songs by the musician, and that they could be issued for several years to come. Commenting on the subject, the curator of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Jim Henke, noted that any future releases would garner significant attention. “I think we are going to see amazing interest in any released Michael Jackson material that will come out in the future or a year from now on. On March 16, 2010, Sony Music Entertainment signed a record-breaking $250 million deal with Jackson’s estate to retain distribution rights to his recordings until 2017 and release ten posthumous albums—some of which will feature unreleased material—over the next decade.