Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

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Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby pittsoccer33 on Mon Oct 28, 2013 9:10 pm

I am very interested in what the legal eagles of LGP think about this.

Steamboat Willie was the first cartoon to feature Mickey Mouse back in 1928. Under laws in place at that time that means the short would have fallen into the public domain in the early 80s, allowing anyone in America to legally sell copies of it.

The copyright protection term has been successfully extended several times since then but 2023 is looming as the expiration date for the Steamboat Willie short.

Big money will certainly side with Hollywood but this time when Disney forces the issue they will have new opponents led by Google.

This does not mean the trademark on Mickey expires. The 1940s Superman cartoons are in the public domain even though Superman is not. I could host those cartoon files on my server but the minute I create my own Warner Bros will be down my throat.

I tend to think Disney should be allowed to keep control of it but I'm curious what other minds think. Just imagine Tolkien's heirs getting nothing from Lord of the Rings sales or Elvis' estate making no money from the recordings he made.
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby Factorial on Mon Oct 28, 2013 9:14 pm

Seven years, or whatever big Pharma gets, would be fine with me.
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby Idoit40fans on Mon Oct 28, 2013 9:19 pm

I see no reason for it to matter if the show becomes public domain.
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby Rylan on Mon Oct 28, 2013 9:21 pm

Idoit40fans wrote:I see no reason for it to matter if the show becomes public domain.


Do they still make money off that short?
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby pittsoccer33 on Mon Oct 28, 2013 9:30 pm

Rylan wrote:
Idoit40fans wrote:I see no reason for it to matter if the show becomes public domain.


Do they still make money off that short?


They release it from time to time on DVD and whatnot. Not likely they would miss the income.

But they go to great pains and spend a ton of money on mastering and digital transfers when they do release it. It ensures a high level of quality. Anyone with a crappy avi torrent could sell it and damage the brand.

the musical tune and short piece of animation serves as the logo title for Disney feature animation on all theatrical and home video releases to this day
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby ExPatriatePen on Tue Oct 29, 2013 6:55 am

Factorial wrote:Seven years, or whatever big Pharma gets, would be fine with me.

Seven years? Why do their property rights only last seven years?
They worked hard and spent ton of money to create something and you want to take it away from them after seven years?
Pharma is different because of the benefit derived.
Nobodys health or life is extended because of Mickey Mouse.
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby tifosi77 on Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:35 am

Technically speaking, it's likely already PD.

Whose mouse is it anyway?
Disney disputes a former worker's claim that a trademark goof means an early incarnation of Mickey is public property.


Copyright and trademark are separate issues, as you allude to with your example of Superman. So 'Steamboat Willie' being a lapsed copyright is no use to someone wishing to exploit the IP because Mickey Mouse is still effectively a salesman for Disney and as such is protected by trademark law. You could sell 'Steamboat Willie', the cartoon, but without a license from Disney you couldn't include any reference to 'Mickey Mouse' (by name or likeness) in the promotional materials, packaging, etc. So.... why bother?

Additional reading: Mickey Mouse -- A Truly Public Character
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby pittsoccer33 on Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:51 am

Steamboat Willie (and all the other cartoons from that time) aren't a huge money maker for the studio now, though I can see someone like Cartoon Network or Hub having a hour during the day of nothing but Disney cartoons.

The bigger issue will be the works going into the public domain soon after - Disney's Snow White, Pinocchio, and Wizard of Oz (along with countless other classics that still sell well on disc and get great tv ratings for the rightsholders). Both Disney and Warner spent considerable amounts of money on recent digital transfers for bluray. I tend to think the market will separate out the good "official" prints from the bad, but I don't like the idea that someone else can profit from the work (though I realize the irony in that Snow White was made from a public domain story).

I think this is a different issue now because these aren't mom and pop operations writing a story (or several stories) and not even leaving a will. These are companies in the business of creating works and they need a protection for that. Disney keeps updating and preserving their classic works - many of their most famous shorts are even available on Netflix now. Their business is preserving their catalog.

So many classic films have been lost - how many more would be if the rights holders had to expectation to continue earning revenue?
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby viva la ben on Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:52 am

What a Mickey Mouse operation
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby meow on Tue Oct 29, 2013 10:11 am

Image

Toot-toot.
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby canaan on Tue Oct 29, 2013 10:24 am

Where does this line end for you for it to be acceptable to be in the public domain? No one makes a stink out of books being in the public domain after so often. If you champion Disney's claim to Mickey, where is the similar stance in regards to the works being given away by sites like project gutenberg?
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby pittsoccer33 on Tue Oct 29, 2013 10:32 am

I think the difference (to me anyway) is that modern media companies are set up to make a product out of their works.

If I went back in time and became Shakespeare's BFF I'd want to set up Shakespeare Theatrical Production LLC - something that would set standards for performances of his plays. High schools mostly all license their spring shows from a company called MTI and the contract includes strict language about what can and cant be done on stage.

In that case the development and preservation of the work would be ongoing by the creator, just like what Disney does.

This all kind of hit me when I was watching Universals 1925 Phantom of the Opera on TCM, and I realized the print had nothing to do with Universal - it didn't even include their name in the opening credits. Someone else has been allowed to profit off something Universal Studios paid a small fortune for in 1925. I assume TCM was showing this "other" print because either it was cheaper than Universal's or Universal sees to profit motive in preserving a public domain work.
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby Willie Kool on Tue Oct 29, 2013 10:32 am

**** Disney. Any copyright protection beyond the original creator's lifetime is, IMO, obscene.
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby Grunthy on Tue Oct 29, 2013 10:43 am

That's asinine. Disney owns it, they should be able to keep it.
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby Willie Kool on Tue Oct 29, 2013 11:11 am

Grunthy wrote:That's asinine. Disney owns it, they should be able to keep it.

For how long? Forever? That's asinine.
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby Grunthy on Tue Oct 29, 2013 11:22 am

Willie Kool wrote:
Grunthy wrote:That's asinine. Disney owns it, they should be able to keep it.

For how long? Forever? That's asinine.



As long as they are in operation.
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby Pitt87 on Tue Oct 29, 2013 12:41 pm

Its not a greater good question as is with other copyright or patent... its a useful life definition. Mickey Mouse is the standard for useful life, thus the standard should help define the law, not arbitrarily become subject to the law it helped to define. There may come a time when MM becomes less relevant, and at that time he will no longer be the standard. Can you imagine the damage to TWDC if they lost the copyright to public domain?
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby Pitt87 on Tue Oct 29, 2013 12:44 pm

Willie Kool wrote:**** Disney. Any copyright protection beyond the original creator's lifetime is, IMO, obscene.


... says the guy with no copyright to protect. Creators lifetime is as arbitrary as it gets... if you create something and died the next day, is it no longer yours? Does it become your estate's property, or is it public because you're dead?
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby Factorial on Tue Oct 29, 2013 2:01 pm

Copyrights should actually go to the person/people who create the product (e.g. the cartoonist, etc that had a part in the creation/design of Mickey).
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby Willie Kool on Tue Oct 29, 2013 2:15 pm

Pitt87 wrote:Creators lifetime is as arbitrary as it gets... if you create something and died the next day, is it no longer yours? Does it become your estate's property, or is it public because you're dead?

How can it be yours if you are dead? That reads as if you want to extend property rights to the dead. And yeah, I'm not a big supporter of inheritance protection either. 100% estate tax would be OK with me.
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby 60sixx on Tue Oct 29, 2013 2:37 pm

Willie Kool wrote: 100% estate tax would be OK with me.


WHAT.
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby Grunthy on Tue Oct 29, 2013 2:56 pm

That is against the american dream to have a 100 percent inheritance tax. That is almost communism.
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby Factorial on Tue Oct 29, 2013 2:57 pm

60sixx wrote:
Willie Kool wrote: 100% estate tax would be OK with me.


WHAT.


I think 75% would be fair.
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby Grunthy on Tue Oct 29, 2013 3:00 pm

Factorial wrote:
60sixx wrote:
Willie Kool wrote: 100% estate tax would be OK with me.


WHAT.


I think 75% would be fair.



I think zero. It is your hard work that created it. It has already been taxed, so it doesn't need taxed again.
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Re: Copyright law: can Disney protect Mickey Mouse again?

Postby Rylan on Tue Oct 29, 2013 3:58 pm

uh oh.
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