With a recent number of controversies affecting the Walt Disney company you’d think things couldn’t get any worse. Well perhaps something that would derail a number of Disney’s revenue streams could be on the horizon, as a recent bill introduced to congress could be the death knell to Disney’s copyright stranglehold.
As you may know, Disney is one of the companies responsible for extending the U.S copyright ownership laws every couple decades. Disney’s prize character, Mickey Mouse, has been up for the public domain multiple times, but each time Disney, and other companies, lobbied to extend the length of ownership.
Now Republican Senator Josh Hawley introduced a piece of legislation called the Copyright Clause Restoration Act of 2022.
Currently the copyright protection lasts 95 years after publication/release, but if this act were to indeed be passed into law that protection would be reduced to only 56 years. Upon its passing into law all works before 1966 would retroactively enter the public domain.
Countless films and programs such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Bambi, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp and many more would be public domain.
This would also affect not just Disney, but other companies like Paramount, Warner Bros.-Discovery, NBCUniversal and many more, making countless movies, shows, songs, books all free to the public.
Elon Musk even commented on the copyright situation, seemingly in support of amending the current rules:
Overzealous DMCA is a plague on humanity— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 12, 2022
Yes this would definitely be a major blow to Disney and other major studios. However, one thing that would help them keep at least some control over those works would be Trademarks. Now trademarks, unlike regular copyright, can be endlessly renewed. So even if say Disney’s Alice in Wonderland were to be public domain that would ONLY include the 1951 film itself. When it comes to producing new material with these designs and character Disney would still hold the trademark. Same goes for all other major studios.
So lets say this law were to come to pass, sure you’d see a bunch of pre-1966 movies added to Netflix and YouTube for free. But you won’t be able to make anything new with them as long as those trademarks are still being renewed.
The law most likely won’t come to pass given how much money is at stake. Most major film, television and music companies would lobby to keep it from passing.
Source: Hollywood Reporter
Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered news blog that covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.