Disney’s name has seldom escaped the news recently.
From the situation with Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Bill (which critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” bill) to the dissolution of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, comments made about Disney’s “Reimagine Tomorrow” employee training, and changes in Disney’s communications leadership — there’s been a lot going on. Now, it seems Disney has become the subject of something else and the focus of one particular U.S. Senator.
Josh Hawley, a U.S. Senator for the state of Missouri, recently posted a message on Twitter regarding Disney and U.S. copyright protections. In it, Hawley said “For years, Disney has gotten special copyright protections from the federal government – allowing them to charge consumers more.”
Hawley went on to say, “Woke corporations shouldn’t get sweetheart deals. I’ll introduce legislation this week to end their special protections.”
For years, @Disney has gotten special copyright protections from the federal government – allowing them to charge consumers more. Woke corporations shouldn’t get sweetheart deals. I’ll introduce legislation this week to end their special protections – enough is enough
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) May 2, 2022
UPDATE: Fox News has since shared that Senator Hawley will be introducing some legislation that would “strip the Walt Disney Company of special copyright protections granted to the corporation by Congress, while also limiting the length of new copyrights.”
The new legislation, which is reportedly being called the “Copyright Clause Restoration Act of 2022” would “cap the length of copyrights given corporations by Congress to 56 years and retroactively implement this change on companies, including Walt Disney.”
In an exclusive statement to Fox News, Hawley said: “The age of Republican handouts to Big Business is over. Thanks to special copyright protections from Congress, woke corporations like Disney have earned billions while increasingly pandering to woke activists. It’s time to take away Disney’s special privileges and open up a new era of creativity and innovation.”
In the past, we’ve discussed copyright in depth when it comes to Mickey Mouse. As we shared, Disney has lobbied the U.S. Congress extensively when it comes to general copyright protections, and it has done so successfully.
Copyright law provides individuals (or companies) with exclusive rights over creative works — this includes fictional characters that are original and fixed in a tangible medium. As long as the copyright protection lasts, the owner has the exclusive ability to use and distribute their work. Once the copyright expires, the work goes into the public domain. At that point, anyone can use that work however they want to.
Copyrights only last a number of years. In the past, Disney has lobbied Congress to make some changes to the U.S. copyright laws to extend certain protections, which, as a result, have extended the copyright protection on their main mouse (and other works that would fall under the regulations).
The most recent example of this is with the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 (which many refer to as the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act”). Under that law, corporate copyright protection was extended from 75 years to 95 years.
According to the U.S. Copyright office’s website, “For an anonymous work, a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first.”
As a result of the current laws, Mickey Mouse won’t fall under the public domain until 2024.
At this point, not much else about this proposed legislation has been shared. We’ll keep an eye out for more details and let you know what we find.