Disney and US Copyright Law.


Due to acts that have extended copyright expiration dates, Steamboat Willy, created in 1928, will not expire until 2023, 95 years after publication. The same goes for other works. As quoted from the U.S. constitution, the whole point of copyright and patent law is:

The Congress shall have Power . . . To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

To put it another way, the point of patents and copyrights are to give incentives to authors and inventors and creators to make arts and inventions for the public in return for exclusive rights to their creations. However, after a certain amount of time, that debt has been paid, and works enter public domain for everyone to use.

Walt Disney is dead. Any incentive we can give has long since gone away. However, the Walt Disney Company still exists, and corporations cannot die. As long as the Walt Disney Company exists, they can continue to lobby for extensions to copyright terms, effectively allowing their works to keep making money by not allowing them into public domain.

This is not the goal thought up in the Constitution. This set of affairs allows for an unlimited time for copyright, and also does not promote progress of science or arts, because works cannot enter public domain to use, and possibly improve upon, until currently 95 years after publication. Is any work worth 95 years of exclusive rights to that work? I have no doubt that when we get nearer to 2023, copyright law will again be lobbied to be extended. We should not let this happen. Let copyrights die, and let works enter public domain.


I bet you’re correct. This is just another example of the government in bed with corporations and the rich at the expense of everyone else. The two are inextricably interlinked, and yet lefties (and righties) continue to support government management over markets. It’s time to get government out of economics.

It’s ridiculous how focused our government is on piracy, which is a gnat of a problem.


This is indeed correct - that is, if the copyright was still active when the “Mickey Mouse” copyright law was passed; I asked our church’s music publishing house about the expiration of certain pieces of music, and the representative told me that if the copyright had not expired at the time the law was passed, it was good for 95 years from the initial copyright (or the latest copyright, if it had been renewed). All for Mickey Mouse!


But why shouldn’t the Walt Disney Co. continue to own its iconic creations?


[quote=“Jazzhead, post:4, topic:35043”]
But why shouldn’t the Walt Disney Co. continue to own its iconic creations?
[/quote]Is that sarcastic? Or is it a serious question?


If I build a house I can keep it for a 100 years, or longer. Or I can sell the house and realize its value. After 100 years the doors are not just suddenly thrown open to the public.

So why can’t the Walt Disney Co. continue to own what it built, what it created?

Just asking.


Because creating something does not give you exclusive rights to everything about it. I can still take pictures of your house, or build my house like yours.

Except, of course, if it’s patented. You design a special type of house and patent it, and then if I copy it, I have to pay you royalties. Copyright and patents are not the same as ownership. You own the rights to your work with a copyright, not the work itself. And if you keep those rights forever, then no one would ever be able to create anything building off your idea ever again. Most Disney movies are examples of public domain works used for creative purposes:

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Sleeping Beauty
Beauty and the Beast
Peter Pan
Robin Hood
The Jungle Book
The Sword in the Stone
Oliver and Company
The Little Mermaid
Treasure Planet
The Princess and the Frog

The whole purpose of public domain is to encourage science and art. And yes, Walt could do whatever he wanted with his movies, just like George Lucas can do whatever he wants with Star Wars. But that is not the same as having exclusive rights to their works, and thus legally banning people from using them.

Evolution vs God

[quote=“Jazzhead, post:6, topic:35043”]
If I build a house I can keep it for a 100 years, or longer. Or I can sell the house and realize its value. After 100 years the doors are not just suddenly thrown open to the public.

So why can’t the Walt Disney Co. continue to own what it built, what it created?

Just asking.
[/quote]OK. Thought you were being sarcastic when I first read that, then I thought, wait, no, he’s serious. Ima leave it alone for now though. I disagree, btw, and in fact, I’m beginning to think the period should be much shorter whether it even should be allowed to exist at all. And I make all of my living on creating copyrighted materials, btw. I might jump into this later and actually address your question rather than simply stating my opinion.


How do they make money? What must they do to make this money? How is the copyright helping or hurting their ability to make money? What would change if it were not protected by copyright?


The only place to get Mickey Mouse is Disney. Without copyright law, films like Steamboat Willy could be distributed for free, or other incarnations of Mickey Mouse could be created by other companies, creating competition for Disney. Allowing Mickey Mouse into public domain is a threat to them, because it allows others to use their ideas to compete with them and make money.


What is “Mickey Mouse” when you get it? Why isn’t any other mouse character just another incarnation of Mickey? When you say “use their ideas to compete with them” - what ideas are they exactly copyrighting (the idea of a mouse named “Mickey”)?

Btw, I’m not trying to be annoying with the Q’s, I’m genuinely curious and interested in fleshing this idea out. I’m not even sure where it will lead yet.


I’m going to answer my own questions for a change, to show how confused I am.

It seems to me that Mickey Mouse is a brand, not a thing. Much like Coca-Cola is a brand of cola drinks. Anyone can produce another animated mouse character (Tom and Jerry) and attempt to sell that mouse’s appeal to children. Much like anyone can produce another cola drink (Pepsi) and attempt to sell that cola’s appeal to others. What other people shouldn’t be able to do, though, is label things as the “Mickey Mouse” brand and sell it; just like Pepsi-co can’t label it’s drink with the same name and visual design as Coca-Cola. Does Coca-Cola hinder competition by refusing others to use its name and visual identity? I think not.

They aren’t just another incarnation of Mickey because Mickey already has brand recognition. The Walt Disney Co already spent years and heavily invested in marketing their animated mouse character’s identity. Mickey isn’t just a mouse character, he’s a brand.

It seems to me that there are no limitations (and maybe this is where I’m wrong) on creating an animated mouse and selling the experience of watching that animated mouse to the market.

I think brands should be protected…and perhaps this is where I’m not very familiar with the copyright protection that Disney is being granted… so the “Mickey Mouse” name and identity should be granted to Disney exclusively until they no longer choose or are able to exercise their right to request others to not infringe on the Mickey brand by blatantly copying it. Disney isn’t preventing competition by keeping other animated mouse characters from reaching the market, they’re just not allowing others to piggy-back on their brand recognition – and I think that is fair.


Who is Cinderella? Is Cinderella only the original story? Is it the Grimm’s fairytale’s version? Is it Disney’s version? I think they all are, and there are certain characteristics associated with Cinderella that we associate with that name.

The point of copyright is to protect an idea. No, not every mouse character is Mickey, but there is a definite identity associated with Mickey, and I think other people can copy that identity. If I was an artist, and I drew you a Mickey Mouse picture, would you deny that it was Mickey, but was just a mouse picture? I think not.

That’s what is protected by copyright.


I understand the purpose of copyright, but am trying to understand why the protection only lasts for a short period of time. If I build a house, I can use it for as long as I want, pass it on to my kids, or sell it and realize its value. But if I write the words and music to a song, it’s mine for only a limited period of time. After the copyright expires, it can be reproduced in any form of media and I can no longer realize its value. Why is that?

I see this every day in the world of jazz, where classics of the fifties (the music’s golden age) are now commonly compiled on quicky labels, with apparently no compensation to the artists or to the record companies that originally produced these sessions. Before, if I wanted a recording of Gerry Mulligan’s classic quartet with Chet Baker, I had to buy it from Pacific Jazz or its corporate successors, Fantasy and Concord. Now, since they are more than 50 yeas old, I can get these tracks in any number of ways. I suppose that’s a boon to me as a consumer. But why are these property rights so uniquely ephemeral?


If you build a house, do you think you have a innate right to not let anyone else copy your house? Having exclusive rights to a creation or idea is not the same as owning that creation or idea. Likewise, when you create a song, you do own the song, but that doesn’t stop anyone else from sharing that song, unless it is copyrighted. Copyrights, I argue, are not innate rights like ownership or something. And that’s why your analogy is flawed.


Not sure I get what you are saying.

It’s confusing isn’t it. Does Disney own the copyright to the name “Cinderella”? Or just to their representation of Cinderella?

Do you think it’s ok for Pepsi-co to start bottling their drinks in the exact same bottles as Coca-Cola with the same design and logo? The copyright that Disney and Coca-Cola owns is the copyright on their brand which includes the design and visual aspects that make up this intangible but valuable thing called a “brand.” Maybe this has some good info:


Copyright is the right to reproduce a work. The owner of the copyright in an original work, performance, or recording has the exclusive right to copy it, to decide how it will be published and distributed, to keep it from being modified against his or her wishes, and to profit from it. The copyright holder also has the right to give others a licence to use the work in specific and limited ways.

Coca-Cola owns copyright in the design of its bottles, the design of its logos, its advertising, and generally anything it creates that can be considered an original work requiring creative effort. For example, the famous Coca-Cola logo and script design is an original artistic creation that is protected by copyright law. In other words, the right to copy the logos and script design is limited by copyright law.

Right, because the specific face of representation of a mouse named Mickey is the brand. You think it’s unfair that Coca-cola doesn’t allow it’s design and name to be placed on any other company’s product?


Now you’re getting into trademarks, which are different from copyright. From my understanding, you could copyright the identity of Coca-Cola in it’s recipe, but the brand name and logo are trademarks, not copyrights. And trademarks can last indefinitely. Which I think is okay. If you have a company, somebody else shouldn’t be selling their stuff as you. That’s just dishonest.


Copyrights, I argue, are not innate rights like ownership or something.

But why? What makes them different? I can understand a requirement to periodically re-register a copyright or use it so as not to “abandon” it. But beyond that, why can’t an artist keep his creations in perpetuity and pass them on to his heirs like any other propertyowner?


I don’t believe it is an innate right because, like the example of the house, you are imposing your will onto others, as in you are forcing people to not copy your design, when they should have the right to do so. I think in a perfectly libertarian world, copyright would not exist. However, we use copyright as an incentive to create, but that incentive is not a right the way that ownership is. People should have the right to copy your house design if they think it’s nifty.


Copyrights are not the same as “brands.” Each created piece that is copyrighted is copyrighted in and of itself, without regard to company. A “brand” is something that is created repeatedly, identically, over and over again by the same entity, or occasionally with slight changes the the entity chooses to make. A single copyrighted song, story, book, etc., is not something that is created and “used up,” so to speak. Even if it is copied, it is still the same exact piece. I may not be saying this very well, but I think it might show the difference between a copyright and a brand (trademark). Many different products can be made under one brand, but a copyright is unique to one specific item.