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.