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December 12, 2000
5:13 PM   Subscribe

Did you know that Mickey Mouse was kept out of the public domain by the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act? [via librarian.net]
posted by gluechunk (11 comments total)

 
Yep.
posted by wendell at 5:28 PM on December 12, 2000


and he paid dearly for it
posted by lagado at 6:28 PM on December 12, 2000


Mickey Mouse is a trademark, and trademarks don't expire.

All of the Sherlock Holmes books originally written by Conan Doyle are out of copyright and are in the public domain. Anyone can print them if they wish.

But the character of Sherlock Holmes is a trademark belonging to the estate of Conan Doyle, and anyone wanting to use the character in any new work has to license him and pay a fee (which goes to Doyle's heirs). When Paramount did the ST:TNG episodes of Data pretending to be Holmes, they paid a license fee. (Moriarty is also a trademark.)

Likewise, Mickey Mouse is a trademark. The only way to lose a trademark is for it to become a generic term because you haven't defended it, as happened with the word "aspirin" in the US. Anywhere else in the world, if you ask for "aspirin" at a pharmacy, it will come from Bayer because it's still a Bayer trademark.

Coca Cola was in serious danger a few years ago of losing the trademark "coke" because it had nearly become a generic term for "cola". That's why when you go to a restaurant which uses Pepsi instead, and ask for a "coke", they'll ask "Is Pepsi OK?" They're under a court order.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:47 PM on December 12, 2000


It was an absolutely odious extention. If you're wondering why almost all of the major non-profit digitatization projects are Pre-WWI, now you know. Oh yeah, Mickey and Bugs paid big for it (google cache).
posted by leo at 7:04 PM on December 12, 2000


Eldred v. Reno is a challenge to the Sonny Bono Act. First round went to the defendant (Reno as in Janet Reno, "In her official capacity as Attorney General"); there were oral arguments for the appeal in early October, but I'm not not sure if there is a known outcome yet.
posted by tingley at 8:50 PM on December 12, 2000


On a related note, does anyone know of a clear resource that outlines fair use and copyright law? I'm looking to explore a new art avenue. ;-)
posted by ooklah at 6:56 AM on December 13, 2000


[Steven Den Beste] Coca Cola was in serious danger a few years ago of losing the trademark "coke" because it had nearly become a generic term for "cola".

Aw, c'mon, everyone knows "coke" is a generic term for any carbonated beverage. Check out these data, specifically for the state of Arkansas where I'm from.

That's why when you go to a restaurant which uses Pepsi instead, and ask for a "coke", they'll ask "Is Pepsi OK?" They're under a court order.

This story seems awfully urban-legendish sounding. I imagine they ask if you want Pepsi because some people really don't like Pepsi and would get justifiably upset if they asked for a Coke and got Pepsi instead.

posted by daveadams at 7:05 AM on December 13, 2000


I know that Disney has, in the past, sent undercover investigators out to bakeries to see if they can purchase bootleg Mickey and Donald cakes; it doesn't seem that much less plausible that Coke would do something similar.
posted by snarkout at 7:37 AM on December 13, 2000


Copyright sources:

A Copyright Primer for Multimedia Developers
Some Observations on Copyright Law
How to avoid Copyright Infringement

US Copyright Office: Copyright Basics

Dave, I'm quite certain about what I wrote because I remember when it started happening, and I remember the news coverage at the time. (But I'm older than a lot of you.) It's no urban legend.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:58 AM on December 13, 2000


Steven, I still must challenge your assertion above about trademark vs. copyright. It's true that Mickey Mouse himself is a trademark, but there are also copyrighted Mickey Mouse works which this legislation was specifically designed to protect (at least for another 20 years). Disney lobbied hard for the DMCA, and it's prevented *anything* from entering the public domain for another 20 years, Conan Doyle notwithstanding.

As for the generic "coke"/Pepsi thing, I know there were some lawsuits, but largely it's likely that most restaurants doing this are simply protecting their asses from being sued in the future. It may also be a function of the beverage distributor's contract.
posted by dhartung at 10:19 AM on December 13, 2000


Daveadams: Pepsi servers ask because PepsiCo demands that they do so... since *CocaCola* would sue them for contribution to dilution if they didn't require this of their retailers.

That's "of the trademark", not "of the soda".

Substitution, too, which is also illegal.

As for the Mickey Mouse topic that started this thread, what was about to go PD was the "Steamboat Willie" cartoon itself.
posted by baylink at 10:49 AM on December 13, 2000


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