It’s Not a Small World – It’s Disney’s World

Major companies are notorious for enforcing strict guidelines regarding copyright laws. Which is why in a Season 4 of Arrested Development, Tobias dresses up as this:

Tobias

(A “Rock Man” costume, for Tobias’ performance of “Fantastic 4: An Action Musical”)

So that he doesn’t look too much like this:

The Thing

The real “Rock Man” (aka The Thing) from the Fantastic Four franchise

And he still gets a cease-and-desist letter from Marvel!

No corporation is more infamous for its ruthlessness when it comes to copyright restrictions, however, than Disney.

A Mental Floss article from 2012 mentions that back in 1989 Disney “threatened to sue the owners of three Florida daycare centers who had decorated their buildings’ walls with unauthorized images of several trademarked Disney characters”. Another article from The Hollywood Reporter describes a similar instance from September 2015, in which Disney and Sanrio filed a copyright lawsuit against a business owner for selling products “which incorporate unauthorized likenesses of animated or live-action characters or other logos.”

According to this website, someone could plausibly (legally) use Disney characters or other content only by either:

  • Getting permission directly from the company (which will likely end up being very expensive);
  • Exercising “fair use” of the characters (by, for example, using Disney characters for academic or parodic purposes)
  • Exercising “transformative use” of the characters (by altering the original character(s) to such an extent that the company is unable to claim copyright infringement)

The two instances of copyright infringement listed above, though they take places years apart from one another, exemplify how unforgiving Disney can be when it comes to the use and portrayal of trademarked or copyrighted content by outsiders. And if Disney is willing to sue an innocent Florida resident for putting up Disney-themed wallpaper, it’s safe to say that anyone who wants to use any character, logo, or story owned by Disney should be extremely, extremely careful.

What would happen if Disney’s content was shared under a Creative Commons license? I honestly think that it would be a win-win scenario for all parties involved. Disney fans could decorate their rooms, record Disney covers, and bake Disney-themed cakes to their heart’s content, and I don’t think a company as big as Disney would really suffer in terms of reputation OR income by allowing others to use their content. It would be interesting to see what would happen if Disney or another big corporation like Sony or 20th Century Fox removed or at least loosened some of their policies regarding copyright.

Sources:

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3 Comments

  1. I really agree with your opinion on Disney adopting a Creative Commons license. They definitely would not suffer financially as Disney seems to be everywhere in everything, more so than most people realise. I think if they loosen their policies that would gain them more respect and may in turn increase revenue. Especially in instances when someone creates (for example painting the characters, or making something Disney related with their “bare hands”) something themselves; they should be protected for that. It’s likely that if someone paints or draws a photo of Mickey Mouse, it’s assumed everyone viewing it will know it’s from Disney. I wonder if they will loosen or change their guidelines in the future.

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  2. I understand that Disney is very famous for their restrictions on copyrighting everything they do – and it seems like it keeps getting more strict and more strict day by day. I kind of understand because as they generate billions and billions a year from parks to movies to merch and they want to make more money but at the same time, as someone mentioned above … If I draw a mickey mouse on a piece of paper, no one would say OH SAL WHATS THIS BEAUTIFUL PIECE OF ART? They would know already because its a Disney invention so I dont get any copyright infringement ??

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  3. I think what happened with the day care wouldn’t happen today. Disney have relaxed in some way in that my primary school had Disney characters everywhere and no action was taken. But, I do think it would be useful if they were under the creative commons. Disney is known worldwide anyway so they wouldn’t be losing anything.

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