Mickey Mouse Release Day
January 17, 2003 9:02 PM   Subscribe

Display of Mickey Mouse as act of subversion? Who'd've thunk it? On April 15, 2003, Mickey Mouse would've been public domain, if it weren't for Sonny Bono. And so on that day, the linked site proposes that all websites display the mouse as an act of deliberate civil disobedience. No one ever said the 21st century would make sense.
posted by condour75 (31 comments total)
 
Where's the love for Pegleg Pete?!?

That man deserves more respect, and also his own ridiculous wont-change-anything activist campaign.
posted by Stan Chin at 9:31 PM on January 17, 2003


How about a Mickey Mouse Vibrator? Is that subversive enough? It's actually a legitmate Disney product released in Japan.
posted by nyxxxx at 9:46 PM on January 17, 2003


Goddamn that Sonny Bono. I hope he runs into a tree or something.

What? Oh.

Never mind.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:52 PM on January 17, 2003


Better yet, make a billboard, put it smack in the middle of Times Square and tell Disney to kiss your ass.
posted by cedar at 10:01 PM on January 17, 2003


Heya,

as you may have noticed from the red freaking banner on the site, we are also trying to start an international movement for copyright term reform. We're up to 65 members already, but we need more; you can join our mailing list here. We're also using a wiki to organize our activities. There have already been some good ideas, I hope to see you on the list.
posted by Eloquence at 10:13 PM on January 17, 2003


Elo -- sorry if I made it sound trivial -- the Mickey Mouse thing just seems very catchy! I will certainly be watching the wiki -- and participating in activities as events warrant.
posted by condour75 at 11:10 PM on January 17, 2003


I'll be changing MetaFilter to a mouse-theme that day.
posted by mathowie at 11:33 PM on January 17, 2003


You geeks, you keep fighting the good fight. I’ll be your cheering section.
posted by raaka at 12:13 AM on January 18, 2003


Dude, I violate copyright every damn day (self-link-ahoy). And millions of other people do the exact same thing every day.

So I'm not quite certain what makes putting a mouse on your page on a particular day any different from what Jane Fangirl does all the time, but, hey, I'll mouse up for anything.
posted by Katemonkey at 12:51 AM on January 18, 2003


this mickey likeness says it all, really.
posted by raaka at 1:03 AM on January 18, 2003


But Mickey Mouse wouldn't have been public domain. He's a trademark, and therefore copyright isn't really the issue when it comes to displays of the Mouse. Some works that include him would have been public domain, yes, but Mickey would have continued as the trademark of the Walt Disney corporation, and so they could still prevent others from making certain kinds of commercial use of him.

It frustrates me that Mickey has become the symbol of this issue, because he's really not the best one. It would be better to find some famous character who isn't also a trademark.
posted by litlnemo at 4:11 AM on January 18, 2003


I'll be changing MetaFilter to a mouse-theme that day.

I hope that's a joke. And if it's not, I hope that you reconsider.

If this is an extended copyright issue, then legally the goose is already cooked, and we'll all have to wait for a few more years before we can put mouse ears on our fabulous blogs. It's just bratty defiance for defiance sake.

I recall this outrage at a blatant theft of the MetaFilter design, and that was just a moral perturbance, not a legal one.

Copyrighted images are protected for a reason.
posted by hama7 at 4:14 AM on January 18, 2003


fanfic does not violate copyright

Displaying mickey mouse would be free advertizing for disney.

I must go to sleep
posted by delmoi at 5:03 AM on January 18, 2003


hama, Mickey has been protected long enough. It's time to give any artist the chance to re-appropriate Mickey, just like Walt did. Or maybe you think Sonny Bono had a firmer grasp on this issue than Thomas Jefferson.

Trademarks may not be the protection Disney hopes it is, litlnemo. From the LA Times profile of Lessig, The "Cultural Anarchist vs. the Hollywood Police State"

"Could someone start selling their own Pooh fruit juice [if Disney's copyrights expire]? Disney would say no, because it has a trademark on the Pooh characters, and trademarks, unlike copyrights, never expire. But at least one appeals court ruling, issued in Missouri in 1890, gives scant comfort to Disney.

"In that case, a publisher had reissued a Webster's Dictionary from 1847 that had gone out of copyright. They were sued by the G. & C. Merriam Co., the original publishers of both that dictionary as well as several subsequent Webster's. Merriam argued that their trademark on the Webster's brand was being infringed by an upstart. Samuel Miller, a Supreme Court justice who was sitting in on a circuit court, slapped them down, writing that he didn't believe that "a party who has had the copyright of a book until it has expired may continue that monopoly indefinitely, under the pretense that it is protected by a trademark or something of that sort."
posted by raaka at 5:11 AM on January 18, 2003


Matt, should we all wear mouse attire on mouse theme day? It might be a way to carry the crusade into the workplace.
posted by madamjujujive at 6:40 AM on January 18, 2003


Meet your new government America!
posted by mooseindian at 7:09 AM on January 18, 2003




Why is Disney taking so much flack anyway? Don’t hundreds of thousands of works and private companies stand to benefit from the law? Can you really blame someone for wanting to make a buck? It makes sense what Disney or any other company would favor such a law, you would too in their position. Why is protecting a work tyrannical? Besides, the Supreme Court decision did not really endorse the law, but merely asserted that Congress was with in its rights to make such a law. While the end result is that the law stands, the Court felt the law was very silly (which does not make it unconstitutional, and thank Zeus for that, otherwise most laws would be overturned).
posted by Bag Man at 11:01 AM on January 18, 2003


one point: as I understand it, the Mickey Mouse character would not have been public domain on 4/15/03. However, Mickey's first appearance, the cartoon "Steamboat Willie", would have become public domain. Mickey's depiction has changed over the years, and I believe it was only that first iteration that was going to become PD. However, IANAL.
posted by Vidiot at 11:38 AM on January 18, 2003


Why is protecting a work tyrannical?

Because copyright is granted to creators in order to promote the creation of new works, not to suppress them for all time.

Th best example of this is Disney itself. Look at how many of their films were based on works in the public domain. Disney has benefited richly from what they've taken from this domian; it is only just that they give something in return.
posted by SPrintF at 2:04 PM on January 18, 2003


What Vidiot said. The current incarnation of Mickey Mouse is a trademark of the Disney Corporation, and therefore is protected from use as long as Disney says so. What's up for grabs, or at least would have been, was Steamboat Willie, and later on more of the "orginal Mickey" films.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:24 PM on January 18, 2003


My understanding of trademark protection, however, is that its focus is much narrower. It only protects the use of a symbol in conjunction with the sale of a good or service.
posted by condour75 at 4:09 PM on January 18, 2003


Why is Disney taking so much flack anyway? Don’t hundreds of thousands of works and private companies stand to benefit from the law? Can you really blame someone for wanting to make a buck? It makes sense what Disney or any other company would favor such a law, you would too in their position. Why is protecting a work tyrannical? Besides, the Supreme Court decision did not really endorse the law, but merely asserted that Congress was with in its rights to make such a law. While the end result is that the law stands, the Court felt the law was very silly (which does not make it unconstitutional, and thank Zeus for that, otherwise most laws would be overturned).

Actually, Dan Ackman writing for the Wall Street Journal on Friday raised some interesting points. First, the copyright extension is unlikely to have positive benefits for Disney's profitability. The economic worth of the extra 20 years is trivial, especally compared to the licensing fees Disney would have to pay to adapt other works published during the time period.

But the problem is not so much with the tiny handful of works (less than 1%) from the 1920s that continue to provide a marginal revenue stream, but with the other %99 of our cultural heritage from the period. I don't think that anyone particularly cares about Steamboat Willie going into the public domain. But there are thousands of periodicals, audio recordings, and early films that are languishing away because of lack of a clear copyright title. Nobody dares to touch them because of a suit coming out of the woodwork. Hundreds of thousands of works stand to perish because of the extension.

In fact, one could make an argument that Disney could stand to benefit if Hemmingway and Wolf, George Gershwin and Fats Waller fell into the public domain. After all, several of Walt's early work as a producer was based on Brothers Grim tales that would not have been in public domain at the time if curret copyright law applied. One of the first Mickey Mouse cartoons, "Barnyard Concert" used Franz Von Suppe's "Poet and Peasant" overture which also would have been protected. Perhaps the greatest Mickey Mouse cartoon, "The Band Concert" features the William Tell Overture which would have still been protected. The soundtrack to Fantasia included at least two major works that had just fallen into the public domain, "the Nutcracker", and the "Sorcerer's Apprentice", ("Rite of Spring" may have been public domain depending on if the copyright term had been renewed.) Disney built his animation studio on public domain works that everybody knew by heart.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:44 PM on January 18, 2003


Trust me, I am not on Disney's side in this. I just think that it would be better to choose a symbol for this fight that is less muddied by trademark issues. One which more clearly belongs in the public domain. Mickey is Disney's most visible and well-known trademark, and they can use that status to bully even those who would have used the Mouse correctly under public domain (that is, if it were to actually go into the public domain).

I'm certain there must be some very famous literary or artistic character that could have been used instead. Using Mickey for this will just confuse the poorly informed, possibly into taking the wrong side in this (and to be completely blunt, the "wrong side" here is the side of those who would continue to expand copyright over and over, well beyond any public benefit).

That's my main concern here. I am completely sympathetic with this cause, just concerned that reliance on Mickey as a symbol might do it harm.
posted by litlnemo at 6:00 PM on January 18, 2003


I agree with litlnemo completely, I would assume that if you complained to your average man on the street that Disney was preventing Mickey Mouse from entering the public domain the response would be:

"Yeah, why wouldn't they?"

Concentrating on all this Disney hate only appeals to those who are already well-adjusted to anti-corporatism. It also serves to alienate all those people who really, really, like Disney. Shocker! Not everybody thinks Disney is the corporate hell daemon of Mephisto! Some people actually have fond memories of Disney products. It'd be best to choose another avenue of approach, as I'd bet these people also think all the whining by anti-corporation activists are really annoying and would rather not associate with them.

In summary: Focusing on Disney isn't going to recruit anyone new to your cause.
posted by Stan Chin at 7:54 PM on January 18, 2003


The Constitution gives Congress the authority:

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

I can't help but think that continually extending the copyright term goes against the spirit of the law. Particularly when the copyright extension term has been extended beyond the probable lifetime of any work's individual creator.

on preview: what Stan Chin said.
posted by Vidiot at 8:07 PM on January 18, 2003


The biggest pisser of them all: Now we can't get MST3K videos.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:51 PM on January 18, 2003


One of the reasons that Disney is singled out is that they have been vocal in getting these extensions past. But if you look at the way Mickey Mouse is used among EFF / Lessig types, it's rarely with any malice for the character. Hell, Cory Doctorow's book takes place in the theme park. And it's "Free the Mouse", not "draw the mouse with hooves".

Mickey Mouse is also chosen specifically because it's provocative. Specifically to delineate the difference between a work of creative art and the corporate cruft that builds up underneath it. Sure, everyone loves Mickey. Do they love the corporation? Probably not.
posted by condour75 at 9:27 PM on January 18, 2003


What? The Supreme Court ruling on the side of profiteers?! I can't believe it! ...While this may not be a direct attack at public domain vs. copyright holding, it does show that those who have the gold (the copyright holders) make the rules.

Vidiot was correct in that Mickey Mouse the character would not go into public domain, but rather the animated short "Steamboat Willie," in which Mickey debuted. Getcher facts straight before ya go tootin' yer horn.
posted by Down10 at 1:18 AM on January 19, 2003


Wasn't Bono just a hack for the $cientologists? Hmm, more information on his efforts to extend copyright law from the Wikipediea:
Mary Bono, speaking on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, noted that "Sonny wanted the term of copyright protection to last forever", but that since she was "informed by staff that such a change would violate the Constitution", Congress might consider Jack Valenti's proposal of a copyright term of "forever less one day".
posted by piskycritter at 8:28 AM on January 19, 2003


I'm certain there must be some very famous literary or artistic character that could have been used instead.

Books now in the public domain in Australia but not the US:

H. G. Wells, d. 1946: The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, The Island of Dr Moreau

George Orwell, d. 1950: 1984, Animal Farm

Virginia Woolf, d. 1941: Mrs Dalloway (recently filmed as The Hours), Orlando

George Bernard Shaw, d. 1950: Pygmalion (=Eliza Doolittle)

F. Scott Fitzgerald, d. 1940: The Great Gatsby

Edgar Rice Burroughs, d. 1950: Tarzan
posted by rory at 7:01 AM on January 20, 2003


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