Michael Eisner realigns our moral compass
March 27, 2002 9:33 AM   Subscribe

Michael Eisner realigns our moral compass (free mickey) concerning intellectual property and copyright laws, with the help of his "internet guru", Abe Lincoln (free mickey). He champions the implementation of tech standards for copyright protection, among other things. "Most important," he explains, "what is needed is a common conviction that theft of all things is wrong." Tell that to the brothers Grimm, Mike (free mickey) .
posted by sixfoot6 (25 comments total)
Huh. Reading this, it almost seems as if some sort of vested interest keeps him from being entirely subjective and even-minded about the whole thing.
posted by dong_resin at 9:42 AM on March 27, 2002

Thanks to Raza of highindustrial for the link and Lawrence Lessig's lecture at SXSW for the irreverance.
posted by sixfoot6 at 9:44 AM on March 27, 2002

dong, Mr. Eisner has already anticipated your skepticism:

"In writing this, I am not just speaking from the self-interest of the head of an entertainment company. For me, theft of property, via the internet or any other way, is not only alarming because of the material loss but also disconcerting because it implies the loss of the moral compass on which our society is based."
posted by sixfoot6 at 9:46 AM on March 27, 2002

Well. That changes everything.
posted by dong_resin at 9:49 AM on March 27, 2002

bleh...bleh...bleh, that article was about one thing, how can Disney make more money out of repressing and legislating fair use.
posted by patrickje at 9:50 AM on March 27, 2002

Of course the theft of all things is wrong. I mean, taking everything, which naturally would include my stuff is wrong, but the theft of some things is just fine.

Seriously, the problem with their attitude is in the definition of theft. I don't think the common man is trying to say theft is okay; they're trying to say that ripping a DVD they own on to their hard disk isn't theft.
posted by kfury at 10:00 AM on March 27, 2002

Dave Winer is right on in his response:
A simple response. Where do I send the money? I want to buy music. I am not a pirate. I can afford to pay for what I use. But I won't buy it through the pre-Internet distribution system, or a hobbled Internet that's designed to behave like the old system. Also, once I've paid for the music, I want to use it on any device I want to. And if I like a song I want to play it for people I care about so they can learn about me, and also be inspired by the music. And since he raised the subject of slavery, I insist that some of the money flow to the creative people.

Eisner is dangerously out on a limb. Napster wasn't a narrow thing. There were tens of millions of users. It was a cultural phenomenon, unlike anything Hollywood has ever manufactured. People know what nirvana looks like, we got a great demo, and that's what we want. Forbes reports that Eisner made over $700 million in five years as Disney's CEO. Where does it stop? He's 59 years old. How much money does he want?
posted by ericost at 10:02 AM on March 27, 2002

Dan Gillmor also nails it :
I'm not a thief. I'm a customer. When you treat me like a thief, I won't be your customer.
posted by ericost at 10:04 AM on March 27, 2002

It's significant that Eisner has to go to Lincoln for his selective source of historical justification, because Jefferson and the other ur-USAians were pretty insistent about the 'limited period of time' element of patents. Remember also that when Lincoln was in office, it was quite legal for American publishers to make bootlegs of European literature, because copyright didn't cross the pond. Full. Of. Shit.
posted by riviera at 10:11 AM on March 27, 2002

put your money where your mouse is.
posted by zoopraxiscope at 10:46 AM on March 27, 2002

Well crap, now that the disembodied voice of our 16th President, as channeled through Mr. Eisner's bloated sense of self-worth and greed, has told me to stop downloading music, I guess I have to.
posted by thewittyname at 10:51 AM on March 27, 2002

Do you think Michael reads Steve Albini? Now that he's stated his position on internet pirates, I wonder if he'll elaborate on the relationship between artists and their record companies? Remember, Prince wrote the word "Slave" across his cheek in response to ownership disputes with his record company, not internet pirates...
posted by harrycaul at 10:54 AM on March 27, 2002

"If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it."

--Thomas Jefferson on intellectual property
posted by pjdoland at 11:23 AM on March 27, 2002

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."

-- U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864
(letter to Col. William F. Elkins)
posted by ahughey at 11:41 AM on March 27, 2002

Nice quote, ahughey. Quite apropos.

The points brought up so far are all pretty dead-on, as is the assessment that Eisner is looking out for his own wallet. What we should really acknowledge, though, is that big corporations are going to be against free sharing of intellectual property until there's something in it for them. Their motivation is the bottom line, not what is right or wrong in an ethical question. Until they get their just desserts, or until the Supreme Court rules against them, this will remain an issue.
posted by me3dia at 12:07 PM on March 27, 2002

I find Eisner's stance particularly hypocritical, considering that many of Disney's classic animated movies were based on public-domain stories: Pinnochio, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Hunchback of Notre Dame, and so on. Maybe Disney should break off an almighty big piece of their bank account and put it into some kind of public trust-fund for starving artists or something.

It's only fair, right, Mike? I'm sure Abe Lincoln would approve....
posted by mrmanley at 12:14 PM on March 27, 2002

Great relevent quotes, pjdoland and ahughey.

I want to see the timespan that copyright laws protect works to be lowered. I want to see the RIAA broken up, as they are in essence an illegal trust. I want to see a future where I'm not forcefed my culture.
posted by Darke at 12:19 PM on March 27, 2002

No, wait, Eisner has a good point. I think that we should make patents and copyrights as meaningful now as they were in Lincoln's time. Back then, patents were in effect for 17 years; copyrights lasted 28 years, with the ability to renew for another 14. So you see, under Mr Eisner's logic, everything Disney did pre-1960 should be in the public domain. Right?
posted by pmurray63 at 12:36 PM on March 27, 2002

So you see, under Mr Eisner's logic, everything Disney did pre-1960 should be in the public domain. Right?

Right. However, Disney is and has been the spearhead of successful lobbying efforts to extend the life of copyrights. Mickey Mouse would have entered the public domain next year had Congress not approved an extension. And 35 Mickey Mouse cartoons go into the public domain in 2006, with the rest of the gang following in the years thereafter. If Disney doesn't win another extension, their licensing empire (where they really make their money) goes up in smoke.
posted by me3dia at 1:40 PM on March 27, 2002

Perhaps I've misunderstood something, but from what I can tell, Mickey Mouse would NOT have entered the public domain next year, no matter what Congress did. The individual cartoon called "Steamboat Willie" would have passed into public domain, but the trademarked likeness of Mickey Mouse would still be protected by trademark laws. Can someone clear this up for me?
posted by ahughey at 2:02 PM on March 27, 2002

Isn't the main argument here that there is a distinction between stealing and copying? The "if I have a car and I take it from you and don't give it back then I'm stealing because you no longer have it but if I make an exact copy of your car then I'm not depriving you of anything" argument? In that circumstance you could argue that the car manufaturer may lose some money to me because of my copy but then they would have lost money if I'd bought someone elses car (or just built one from scratch).
posted by davidgentle at 2:21 PM on March 27, 2002

ahughey, its the difference between copyright and trademark. Disney's copyright on Steamboat Willie and the other early cartoons will expire if the term is not extended again. Their trademark on the character of Mickey Mouse and all the other lovable characters will go on indefinitely, so long as they protect the product. And aggressively protecting the product is one thing Disney is well known for.
posted by yhbc at 2:36 PM on March 27, 2002

Actually, it seems to be more complicated than that, and not very well communicated in the info I've been able to find. This ABC News (ironic, no?) story from '98 says that although Mickey would become public domain, Disney could still enforce their trademarks. (Not sure how that works, but I guess that's irrelevant now.)

Legal action has been taken to try to reverse the most recent copyright extension -- some very good commentary on the case is here. This page seems to be a decent source for info on the topic as a whole.
posted by me3dia at 2:45 PM on March 27, 2002

Mmm, my favorite kind of argument: "This dead, respected, historical figure would have agreed with me."

Wife: I asked you an hour ago to take out the trash. Now stop playing Warcraft II and do it.

Me: Honey, Pythagoras loved mathematics. And since the computer is build on mathematical principles, it stands to reason that he would have loved Warcraft II ...
posted by Shadowkeeper at 2:55 PM on March 27, 2002

Skullduggery behind the scenes? The ABC news story about Disney which m3dia linked to, while active about an hour ago, has now gone dead. Fortunately Google's cache of the page still works. Is Disney/ Eisney going to sue Google now for enabling access to that banned copyrighted work?
posted by skylar at 8:02 AM on March 28, 2002

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