Mind Droppings

Speaking of Copyright…

I’m loving that Disney and Warner Brothers are tangling over copyrights for products based on public domain materials.

Disney is the company, you’ll recall, behind the ridiculous extension of copyright, also known as the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act.” And Warner Bros. (WB) are no slouches when it comes to zealous protection of its properties.

Here’s the scoop:

Disney has made a film, Oz the Great and Powerful, and WB, who still holds copyright for the iconic 1939 film based on the now-public-domain Oz books by Frank L. Baum, got wind of Disney’s project and immediately filed for trademark protection on the phrase “The Great and Powerful Oz.” Unfortunately for WB, Disney had beaten them to the punch, filing for trademark protection on their film’s title just a week before, and the U.S. trademark office denied WB’s application.

But… in 2011 the 8th circuit court of appeals granted copyright protection to WB for the film characters depicted in their 1939 film. And as today’s TechDirt article outlines, Disney has had to be exceedingly careful not to allow any of its work to even remotely resemble anything from WB’s movie.

For example, they report that Disney’s makeup artists had to go as far as to create a new shade of green for the Wicked Witch, so as not to run afoul of WB’s trademark on the character as portrayed by Margaret Hamilton in the 1939 version. They also had to keep tabs on the hairstyles for 40 little people cast as Munchkins to make sure they weren’t too close to any of the styles in the WB film.

As TechDirt puts it:

True, there are many things the founding fathers couldn’t possibly have considered over two hundred years ago, but what’s going on here is resembles nothing more than gerrymandering Baum’s legacy in order to avoid a costly turf war — over something that should be in the public domain.


7 thoughts on “Speaking of Copyright…

  1. Buwahaha! Love this! What goes around comes around … and shows the complete greed behind the copyright law changes. Yeah, the author’s lifetime plus some reasonable length of time for the heirs to continue to profit for a while (ten years? twenty?), but the Disney-fication of the copyright laws does nothing but stifle creativity and bring profit to big companies (not individuals).

    I could go on and on — as is my usual wont — but I’ll stop there. 🙂

  2. I really see no reason for copyright to extend much beyond the author’s lifetime or a set number of years after which a company acquires the rights from the author (fifty would seem a perfectly adequate span in which to profit from an investment.)

    The trademark business is all about merchandising and rarely benefits the original creator(s) much.

    • I’m so bad at following Twitter, I’ve stopped adding any feeds to it. But I’m going to visit the site regularly, or try to — it had been a couple months since I’d been back, and now I’m wa-ay behind!

      • I find it useful for finding oddball things that I might not see otherwise. For example, I have a search for “Maggie Smith” set up, and I generally get wind of interviews etc. that way. Works better than Google alerts.

      • That’s probably a better way to use Twitter than the way I was. Maybe I’ll try that approach — is that something you do with hashtags? (Probably a silly question, but I’m not entirely sure how to do that.)

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