Overturning a lower court's decision, a Rome appeals court has cleared pop star Michael Jackson of plagiarism allegations in a case involving an Italian songwriter, news reports said. Al Bano, a veter

Overturning a lower court's decision, a Rome appeals court has cleared pop star Michael Jackson of plagiarism allegations in a case involving an Italian songwriter, news reports said. Al Bano, a veteran songwriter and singer, claimed Jackson stole part of the musical motif of his 1987 song "I Cigni di Balaka'' (The Swans Of Balaka), in composing "Will You Be There." The latter track appears on Jackson's 1991 Sony album "Dangerous."

In May 1999, a lower court in Rome found Jackson guilty of plagiarism. The court ordered, then suspended, a $1,900 fine, but ordered Jackson to pay court costs. Jackson's lawyers appealed the decision.

Yesterday's ruling ends the criminal trial, which started in 1995, two years after Al Bano, whose real name is Albano Carrisi, made his claim. In a separate civil case Al Bano initiated involving the same song, a Milan court also found Jackson not guilty of copyright infringement. A Milan court of appeals upheld the 1997 ruling two years later.

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