Disney Drops the Copyright Ball

Mickey - You're Next

Last year I reported on Disney's shady practice of spending millions to lobby Congress for copyright extensions every time Mickey and the gang were set to enter the public domain. Now business as usual has taken a major turn as Congress has neglected to pass a copyright extension bill before the ball dropped on New Year's Eve.

That means works first published in 1923 are now public domain. Lest I inflate your hopes too much, they don't include Mickey Mouse et al. However, Disney will lose their copyright on Mickey in 2024 assuming Congress doesn't issue another copyright extension before then--which evidence suggests they won't.
"There's now a well-organized, grassroots lobby against copyright expansion," Grimmelmann tells Ars. There are large business interests now on the anti-expansion side. Also a wide popular movement that they can tie it into."
The rise of the Internet and its remix culture means that a lot of people now benefit from a growing public domain in ways that wasn't true in 1998. That includes big companies like Google but it also includes grassroots communities like Wikipedia editors and Reddit users. This emerging copyright reform coalition flexed its lobbying muscles in 2012 when it overwhelmingly defeated an Internet filtering bill called the Stop Online Piracy Act.
So if the usual suspects had pushed for another copyright extension, they would have had a serious fight on their hands. Digital rights groups, online activists, and lobbyists from big technology companies would have swarmed Capitol Hill making the case against copyright extension. Evidently, major rights holders didn't have the stomach for another battle like that.
Of course, it's possible they could make another effort in the future. Remember, Congress allowed one year's worth of copyrighted works to expire in January 1998 before passing a term extension that year.
But there's reason to think that this time is different. Today's opponents of copyright extensions are vastly better organized and better funded than the ragtag band that tried to stop the 1998 copyright extension.
The Ars Technika bugman glossed over it, but Congress' decision not to further extend copyright terms has little to do with private sector activism. If grassroots action could move the levers of government, we'd have a Wall by now.

Read between the lines, and you find the real force compelling Congress to stay its hoary hand: "large business  interests" and "lobbyists from big technology companies", which translates to "Google".

If anybody needed further proof as to who rules over us after the farcical Congressional big tech hearings, witness Google's power to serve Disney and Congress a nice tall glass of sit the fuck down.


  1. This sounds like 2 enemies fighting each other.

    Carry on.

    1. Yep. Last thing we want to do is interrupt them.

  2. Just like with the last extension, an "unfrozen year" preceded it -- don't let it happen again!

    They used Sonny Bono offing himself with a ski slope and a pine tree as the excuse last time. Who'll be the "sacrifice" this year?

    Gotta watch these Globalist Trash and their Leprous Lapdogs like hawks!

    Put your Congress Critters on a short leash!

    Public Domain for the Cancer Mouse!

    Baby Bell the Alphabets!

    1. Man of the Atom,

      Agreed. I do hope to see a lot of new stuff becoming available aas public domain. We can then reprint it and later continue the stories or mash them up.
      I want big tech to be declared essential utilities and regulated as such.


  3. Things like this underscore why I’m so disillusioned with the American system in general. Not because it’s corrupt, which it is and has been for generations. My anger is from being lied about it for so long and being told we’re “exceptional” and better than the rest of the world in this regard. Bullshit.

    I remember learning about Disney’s manipulation of the copyright system and buying of Congress in my copyrights law class. Just like my constitutional law class, it taught me that this nation is ruled by two things: money and whim.

  4. When I was a Misesian Libertarian, I remember reading Jeff Tucker and Stefan Kinsella about the need for IP reform, and even after washing my hands of Libertarianism, I still agree with their core message.

    I have no prescription of what it should be reformed to. I leave that to those with skin in the game.

  5. Consider that the original copyright in England was all of 14 years. Begin by reducing it back to 15 years. Force companies and individuals to either make something of the right or license it to someone who can for that period.

    One of the challenges of copyright is that companies play "patent troll" and keep the material away from the public, hoping for a huge payday that often never comes. The IP withers away out of the public eye in the meantime.