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COMMONS MAGAZINE

Posted
January 8, 2013

How Disney Raids the Public Domain

And gives nothing back in return because Mickey Mouse is locked up under copyright in the castle

The evolution of creativity through the centuries has been a process of talented people building upon the work of those who came before. Walt Disney and the media empire he amassed benefited greatly from this tradition of the commons, turning stories from the public domain into blockbuster movies beginning with Snow White in 1937. But when the time came to let other creative talents work with Disney material, as Disney himself did with J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and Rudyard Kipling’s characters in the Jungle Book, the company refused. Instead they successfully sought to extend the copyright on Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck far beyond anything seen before in human history. Copyrights in the early days of the American republic lasted for 28 years and as late as 1976 covered works for a maximum of 56 years—- a reasonable amount of time to reward individuals for their creative success. But today copyright last more than 100 years, allowing heirs and corporation to lock up iconic cultural symbols long beyond the life spans of their creators. This amounts to a slow starvation of the public domain, leaving younger creative talents undernourished. —Jay Walljasper

Some of the Stories the Disney Corporation Has Borrowed from the Public Domain Since 1937 (Which is Perfectly OK since They Belong to All of Us to Build Upon):


Adventures of Huck Finn by Mark Twain
Aladdin from a folk tale in One Thousand and One Nights
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
Atlantis from the legend of Atlantis
Beauty and the Beast by G-S Barbot de Villeneuve
Bug’s Life from Aesop’s Fables
Cinderella from the Charles Perrault folk tale
Chicken Little from the folk tale
Christmas Carol from Charles Dickens
Frozen from Hans Christian Anderson’s Ice Queen
Hercules from the Greek myth
Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson
Mulan from the Chinese Legend of Hua Mulan
Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
Pocahontas from the life and legend of Pocahontas
Princess and the Frog from the Brothers Grimm folk tale The Frog Prince
Return to Oz from L. Frank Baum’s books
Robin Hood from the English folk tales
Sorcerer’s Apprentice from the poem by Johann Goethe
Song of the South from the Uncle Remus stories by Joel Chandler Harris
Snow White from the Brothers Grimm folk tale
Sleeping Beauty from the Charles Perrault folk tale
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
Tangled from the Brothers’ Grimm fairy tale Rapunzel
Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
White Fang by Jack London


Stories that the Disney Corporation has In Turn Contributed to the Public Domain (Which Are Not Legally Available for Anyone Else to Build Upon Because Copyright Limits Keep Being Extended to Keep Mickey Mouse locked up in Disney’s Castle):


NONE!


Adapted from OTC’s All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons (The New Press)