On Monday, August 22, Rolling Stone UK magazine referred to Harry Styles as the “new King of Pop” on their October-November cover. It outraged netizens within hours because the title "king of pop" is famously associated with the late Michael Jackson.
Taj Jackson, Michael Jackson's nephew, took to Twitter to criticise the cover and the use of the moniker by Rolling Stone UK. In the tweet, he reminded the publication that they did not own the rights to use the title "king of pop."
Taj then stated that the title had been retired. In the tweet, he also praised Styles as "mega-talented," but demanded that he be given "his own unique title."
Why cannot Harry Styles be legally called the “new king of pop?”
The title of “King of Pop” previously made headlines in 2012 when GourmetGiftBaskets.com, Inc. bought a domain named KingOfPop.com. This caused a series of cease and desist demands, followed by a lawsuit filed by the Estate of Michael Jackson in 2016.
While the lawsuit's outcome is unknown at the moment, the case acknowledged that the late pop star's estate currently owns the trademark for the title "King of Pop." This is why Michael Jackson's nephew chastised Rolling Stone UK for using Harry Styles' trademarked moniker, as the publication is not permitted to use the moniker for other artists.
According to official public records, the wordmark "KING OF POP" is owned by Michael Jackson's estate and Triumph International, Inc. The trademark was registered about a month after Jackson's death in 2009, according to the record.
The trademark is active over multiple categories ranging from printed products, merchandise, and musical recordings, amongst others. This could imply that when Rolling Stone UK referred to Harry Styles as the "new King of Pop," they infringed on Jackson's estate's trademark.
The now controversial text on the cover reads, “How the new King of Pop set the music world aflame.” It is unknown if there are any other profile articles or interviews in Rolling Stone UK’s October-November issue about Harry Styles, which further refer to him as the “new King of Pop.”
Michael Jackson fans are unhappy over Rolling Stone UK labeling Harry Styles as the “new King of Pop”
Following the release of the cover, a legion of twitterati expressed their disapproval of Styles being labeled “the new king of pop.” A few tweets claimed that the Rolling Stones UK had already disrespected Jackson several times.
While a handful of tweets passed hate comments about Styles and indulged in homophobic slurs towards the artist, most tweets showcased respect towards the ‘As It Was’ artist.