It seems like there won’t be another Mickey Mouse copyright extension act

by on January 9, 2018 at 6:44 am in Current Affairs, Film, Law, Television, Uncategorized | Permalink

…advocates of a new copyright term extension bill wouldn’t be able to steamroll opponents the way they did 20 years ago. Any term extension proposal would face a well-organized and well-funded opposition with significant grassroots support.

“After the SOPA fight, Hollywood likely knows that the public would fight back,” wrote Daniel Nazer, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in an email to Ars. “I suspect that Big Content knows it would lose the battle and is smart enough not to fight.”

“I haven’t seen any evidence that Big Content companies plan to push for another term extension,” Nazer added. “This is an election year, so if they wanted to get a big ticket like that through Congress, you would expect to see them laying the groundwork with lobbying and op-eds.”

Of course, copyright interests might try to slip a copyright term extension into a must-pass bill in hopes opponents wouldn’t notice until it was too late. But Rose doesn’t think that would work.

Here is the full piece, via someone in my Twitter feed sorry I forget.

1 Ted Craig January 9, 2018 at 7:40 am

The copyright law needs an update. Companies like Disney are built on intellectual property in a way that was inconceivable 100 years ago. There needs to be a way to allow these companies to succeed without stifling the creativity of others.

2 ivvenalis January 9, 2018 at 8:59 am

The fact that Disney makes money from (the threat of) lawsuits about retelling decades-old stories, copying dead people’s drawings, and listening to old popular music doesn’t mean it ought to be that way. Disney employs many talented artists; I’m sure if they had to lay off a bunch of lawyers they could use the money saved to produce more original art. It’s possible that Disney would even continue to make money by from using characters and symbols in the public domain, even if lost profits from increased competition exceeded the amount of money saved by reducing its legal overhead.

3 Just Another MR Commentor January 9, 2018 at 10:50 am

Disney built his empire by largely expropriating stories from the public domain – they can come up with a new business model and create something new. No need that we give them a permanent government-granted monopoly.

4 hamilton January 9, 2018 at 10:52 am

Yeah, ivvenalis is right here. The way for them to succeed is *start telling new stories.* Should we worry about the (descendants of the descendants of the descendants) of the creators of the stories used in the ABC/Disney show “Once.” If the answer is “no” (and it is), then why should we worry about Disney? We should not.

5 OldCurmudgeon January 9, 2018 at 11:21 am

>There needs to be a way to allow these companies to succeed without stifling the creativity of others.

Other than “Fair Use”?

6 Thelonious_Nick January 9, 2018 at 11:44 am

“here needs to be a way to allow these companies to succeed without stifling the creativity of others.”

I’m not sure Disney is even a great steward of their own works. I have checked into buying old Disney cartoons on DVD and there are no collections currently available. They put out complete sets of many of their characters about 15 years ago–but those used sets now cost hundreds of dollars on Amazon, if available at all. They also in the late 90s or early 2000s put out smaller “best of” sets, but those are also currently out of print and the same situation applies.

You’re leaving money on the table, Disney!

7 Komori January 10, 2018 at 1:14 pm

Artificial scarcity. That way they can come out with 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Special Edition sets every once in a while and slap a huge price tag on them. Could get more just leaving it available all the time? I have no idea, but I bet they’ve got a team of people running the numbers.

8 clockwork_prior January 9, 2018 at 7:52 am

After the Supreme Court decision in Eldred_v._Ashcroft – – Disney can wait, as noted in the article itself – ‘For example, Disney’s copyright for the first Mickey Mouse film, Steamboat Willie, is scheduled to expire in 2024. But the political environment has shifted so much since 1998 that major copyright holders may not even try to extend copyright terms before they start to expire again.’

After all, the current interpretation of the words ‘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’ in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 is this, from the opinion at

‘In petitioners’ view, a time prescription, once set, becomes forever “fixed” or “inalterable.” The word “limited,” however, does not convey a meaning so constricted. At the time of the Framing, “limited” meant what it means today: confined within certain bounds, restrained, or circumscribed. Thus understood, a time span appropriately “limited” as applied to future copyrights does not automatically cease to be “limited” when applied to existing copyrights.’

Basically, a copyright term of eternity minus 1 day is a limited term by this framework, for both existing and future works. And Disney still has six years to see how far they can push American copyright terms, particularly considering how copyright terms are already treated differently depending on type of holder.

Though who knows – maybe Disney won’t be bothered by people creating something along these lines –

9 Cyrus January 9, 2018 at 8:20 pm

Dicta within the Eldred decision imply at least one member of the Eldred majority would be receptive to the argument that a copyright term of 100 years or more is not meaningfully distinguishable from a perpetuity.

10 dearieme January 9, 2018 at 7:52 am

Copyright extension is about as blatant an example of legalised theft by the richer from the poorer as you can find. Indeed, overwhelmingly by Democrat richer, I suppose.

11 Careless January 9, 2018 at 12:35 pm

While it’s certainly a use of power by the rich, I cannot guess how you’re getting to theft.

12 dearieme January 10, 2018 at 10:03 am

Then guess harder.

13 FE January 9, 2018 at 7:54 am

The last one passed by unanimous consent in the Senate and a voice vote in the House. This is such a no-brainer from Congress’s perspective, no advance work is required.

14 clockwork_prior January 9, 2018 at 8:32 am

And there is no question that Disney’s contributions represent the sort of bipartisanship that every elected member of Congress can agree to participate in.

One can see how that works in a local election that Disney obviously considered important –

15 zbicyclist January 9, 2018 at 2:06 pm

“”I haven’t seen any evidence that Big Content companies plan to push for another term extension,” Nazer added”

Is that just to try to lull the opposition to sleep? Never bet against Congress doing something that’s relatively painless (in terms of the popular vote) but can please people with money.

16 Axa January 9, 2018 at 8:33 am

Walt Disney died 51 years ago. His two children are dead too. What is the point of copyright?

17 Just Another MR Commentor January 9, 2018 at 9:12 am

Disney still has shareholders.

18 Mulp January 9, 2018 at 10:47 am

Disney shareholders are creating new innovative entertainment faster than Walt Disney dreamed them up while alive, and his brother could finance them?

I thought it was workers getting paid by Disney who created all the innovations, not Disney shareholders.

Or are you arguing for rent seeking to reward functionless investors?

19 Borjigid January 9, 2018 at 8:47 am

Good. Copyright beyond the author’s life is bad.

20 Benny Lava January 9, 2018 at 8:51 am

I can’t wait for all those books to go public domain.

21 clockwork_prior January 9, 2018 at 9:21 am

And to think they already have in a number of other countries.

Though woe betide swindled American Kindle users – ‘Owners of Amazon’s Kindle electronic book reader have received a nasty surprise, after discovering that copies of books by George Orwell had been deleted from their gadgets without their knowledge.


Although the work of Orwell – who died in 1950 – has entered the public domain in some countries, it is not yet free of copyright restrictions in the United States or Europe.’

22 Hazel Meade January 9, 2018 at 8:58 am

Someone needs to organize star wars fans against this, since it would allow them to legally market the original versions of star wars. Ie the ones where Han shoots first.

23 Hazel Meade January 9, 2018 at 10:09 am

I mean, against any copyright extension law. No copyright means fans can do whatever they want with old Star Wars videos.

24 Careless January 9, 2018 at 12:43 pm

since it would allow them to legally market the original versions of star wars

Not for another 54 years

25 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ January 9, 2018 at 9:19 am

I for one would like a moderate fixed term from publication, something in the 30-50 year range, for all copyright. You should be able to read the copyright date on the item.

A system with hidden dates, which varies by type (“for hire” or “by creator”), or worse by the length of an obscure creator’s life, makes “copyright search” necessary, and raises unnecessary burdens on reuse.

Keep it simple.

26 Oleg January 9, 2018 at 9:19 am

What is desperately needed is a copyright term abridgement bill.

27 Patent Troll January 9, 2018 at 9:39 am

How about we make copyright and patent the same length?

28 Oleg January 9, 2018 at 10:29 am

This is ambiguous. I sincerely hope (and suspect) you mean that you mean we should make copyright protection as short as current patent protection, and not make patent protection as long as current copyright protection.

29 bob January 9, 2018 at 7:53 pm

How about no.

Unless you’re suggesting both should be zeroed, in which case we can talk.

(I don’t think zero is the right answer categorically, but is closer to where we should be than current US law.)

30 Oleg January 10, 2018 at 10:18 am

I’m also wounding whether zero may be the right answer. In any event, I’m certainly not categorically against it.

31 Sard January 9, 2018 at 10:09 am

I finally will be able to film my magnum opus. Mickey Mouse vs Sailor Moon.

32 albigensian January 9, 2018 at 10:12 am

Excessive length of copyright may be a problem, but it’s hardly the only one. There’s also the difficulty in clearing copyright even for those willing to pay, due to the difficulty in determining who actually owns copyright for many works, with potentially heavy financial penalties for making an error.

If cars and real property must be registered, why should registry not be required for valuable intellectual property?

A reform of copyright might include a requirement to register copyright in order to retain rights, combined with a very limited initial term that could be renewed for a modest sum- but only if the owner made the effort to do so. Renewing copyright need not be burdensome; just requiring it as a positive option would cause many works that no longer have commercial value to enter the public domain.

In any case, if copyright is ever limited to a more reasonable term then I’d expect cultural Goliaths like Disney to rely more on trademarks. Surely those mouse ears could be trademarked? And perhaps x-wing fighters and Darth Vader masks and …

33 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ January 9, 2018 at 10:50 am

A registration system might be workable, but you probably need a publisher ID and a work ID. To claim copyright a creator would first need to register as a publisher.

Right now claiming Copyright is free and easy:

“Prior law did, however, require a notice, and the use of a notice is still relevant to the copyright status of older works. For works first published on or after March 1, 1989, use of the copyright notice is optional. Before March 1, 1989, the use of the notice was mandatory on all published works.”

That makes quite a mess IMO.

34 OldCurmudgeon January 9, 2018 at 11:19 am

>why should registry not be required for valuable intellectual property?

We got rid of it…The problem they were trying to solve was the difficulty in properly filing and maintaining registrations in hundreds of countries, particularly for small time authors/artists.

This problem was magnified by various countries (including the U.S. at one point) that purposely created nitpicky requirements with the intent of tripping up foreign authors/artists, thereby facilitating their domestic ‘copyright infringement’ industry. Think China, but now with a veneer of legality.

35 clockwork_prior January 9, 2018 at 1:38 pm

‘The problem they were trying to solve’ was insuring that absolutely nothing would be entering the public domain in any way, shape, or form due to a lack of effort of those enjoying a government granted monopoly.

36 OldCurmudgeon January 9, 2018 at 5:14 pm

>government granted monopoly

Intellectual property is the only form of property that can exist *without* government. Patents/copyrights, in turn, exist to make I.P. easier to sell.

37 dan in philly January 9, 2018 at 11:20 am

Who under the age of 50 cares about Micky Mouse anymore?

38 Scott Mauldin January 9, 2018 at 1:10 pm

Psst: it’s metonymy.

39 Qwerty January 9, 2018 at 3:25 pm

Isn’t it a mouse actually? Donald Duck is a mouse. Then, Mickey Mouse is a mouse.

40 Doug January 9, 2018 at 1:28 pm

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse s a very popular kids show. One of the top on Netflix Kids. My toddler is currently dancing along to a Mickey Mouse doll singing the hotdog song right now.

41 Careless January 9, 2018 at 2:04 pm

Now, if you asked “who over the age of four”, I’ve got no idea

42 David Wright January 9, 2018 at 1:45 pm

Thank God! In my view, the last copyright extension law was unconstitutional and Eldred v. Ashcroft was wrongly decided. The copyright clause says “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.” That “to promote the progress” means that the rules of copyright must plausibly promote creative production, but a retroactive extension doesn’t do that. Increases of the copyright period should only be allowed for future works.

43 OldCurmudgeon January 9, 2018 at 5:22 pm

IDK. Even if you’re right, the copyright statue probably is independently Constitutional under the Commerce Clause. c.f. the Lanham Act.

44 athEIst January 9, 2018 at 3:39 pm

After the downfall of Italy’s fascist government in 1945, the ban was removed.

Musssolini kept the trains on time and the mice(at least MM) at bay.

45 ohwilleke January 9, 2018 at 4:49 pm

The economics for a term extension fight isn’t there. Content royalty income is overwhelmingly front loaded. The number of works that have any meaningful economic value even under the pre-1976 maximum 52 years from publication term a very small. The number of even older works that have continued significant economic value is small indeed.

46 GHQ January 9, 2018 at 8:06 pm

Intellectual property is theft.
Creative works should be available to all.
People who are willing and able to produce creative works on their own dime without recompense should be those who produce them, in exchange for the satisfaction of having served mankind, society, the intelligent designer, etc.
But me personally, I like copyrights.

47 web site January 10, 2018 at 5:37 pm

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