Free Mickey (Copyright Gone Wild)

The world of intellectual property is a world of hypocrisy.

As demonstrated by Walt Disney’s behaviour during his prolific reign as king of the animating industry, and little more than a couple of hundred years before James Watt’s obsession with patents, copyright law only becomes important to creators when they experience success and want to protect it at all costs (Lessig 2004). Once Walt Disney parodied Steamboat Bill Jr, shamelessly copied and appropriated the work of the Brothers’ Grimm and other fairy tales, and gained huge success from others’ unprotected intellectual property, his company lobbied the US government to extend copyright so that other creators could not do what Disney did in using older material to create new things. Indeed, the protection of the infamous Mickey Mouse character is at the center of the debate surrounding intellectual property rights. It seems as if every time the Mickey Mouse character is about to hit the public domain, the Disney company lobbies for an extension of copyright law to keep Mickey from the terrifying clutches of content creators and appropriators (Masnick 2012)
The same intellectual property debate rages like an out of control bushfire sweeping the land, leaping fences, seeping furiously into homes. Governments and entertainment conglomerates accuse file sharing hosts and everyday citizens of stealing, while they gather user data and private communications surreptitiously, unashamedly (Black 2013), almost never being held accountable. This is why the recent PRISM scandal involving the NSA in the U.S. (Stone and Brustein 2013) was so shocking to us (see Declaration of Independence); because it was always start-ups, uncontrollable internet companies and everyday citizens who were seen to be doing the stealing.
The copyright debate has become murky in the cyber-age. The right to say who can stop the free flow of information and determine who has the right to share it has caused problems between governments and cultures across the world. The ad used to scare Australian and UK citizens into submission on the subject of downloading and sharing pirated content was found to be using unacknowledged and therefore stolen music to create the ad (Whitehouse 2012), it raised questions about the legitimacy of the debate. If even the entertainment industry is pirating content, why is it so bad for the average citizen to do it? Aren’t we just sharing what we’re interested in with our peers?
When a study on whether internet piracy of movies was decreasing revenue revealed that there was little to no impact on the movie industry of the piracy of movies, we have to question why it is necessary for the big entertainment conglomerates to be so vocal about copyright and piracy. Maybe there’s something that the industry should be thinking about before it gets all up in arms about what we’re doing and look at their own habits: releasing content which is globally popular to the U.S. first and delaying release to other countries, or simply barring them from content if they are foreign (U.S. TV show websites, Netflix etc), is making audiences seek other ways to consume content.
So do the benefits of being able to share content readily with others and create new, original pieces of work without living in fear of persecution outweigh the negatives which are dominating the debate? I say yes, yes they do. If the entertainment industry can learn to back down, to work with the new possibilities of digital media, they’ll have more than a fighting chance in getting what they want while starting a new, two-way relationship with the people they expect to keep the industry in business. Or at the very least, we might finally free Mickey.

8 thoughts on “Free Mickey (Copyright Gone Wild)

  1. pakkaponow says:

    I think that copyright is a important things because it give the creator what they deserve but i think that the length of copyright shouldn’t be too long. Because everything can be better, everything can be improve such as Disney’s cartoon or many of Shakespeare’s work.


  2. samuow says:

    I guess it all comes down to either getting credit for someone else’s work, or getting paid for someone else’s work, as opposed to the whole ‘sharing things with our peers’ thing. But then again, anything can be considered copyright infringement these days, and I’d say that 90% of us breach copyright legislation without even realising it – as you said – sharing things we love with our friends. I didn’t realise that there was such a minute impact on movie revenue from online sharing! That was an interesting link. Maybe if content was distributed a little more freely – same release dates around the word, equal pricing schemes – people would be far less inclined to break copyright laws. At the end of the day, corporations do it to themselves. You’re right, the only real word for it is hypocrisy.


  3. mh1993 says:

    Really interesting point on how hypocritical the whole thing is, especially in regards to the media conglomerates, and their stances on copyright and the information they are maintaining.
    I really liked how you linked so many sources into your post and made them so easy to access. Allows for an in-depth understanding of the post, and your process while composing the post, to be gained


  4. chjvu says:

    Very inspirational post about creativity in the entertainment industry. Perhaps, if only the now copyright-crazy entertainment industry could recognise the possibilities and capabilities of ‘produsers’ who have enhanced and enriched the original product with their endless imagination; they could start to actually make more money than pursuing these futile court cases against people who just want to create.


  5. brienneconnor says:

    I found your example of the ad to stop us from downloading content for free to be very interesting! Had no idea the decided to pirate the music for their ad. Very hypocritical of them. I think in the case of Disney, action should be taken to free Mickey, considering they took the story ideas from the Brothers Grimm.


  6. orcadiamccann says:

    On one hand, files that are downloaded from file “sharing” sites, like you said, merely offer people a place to access exactly that; “shared” content (not stolen). But on the other hand, corporations, whilst we may never know to what extent, ultimately loose money as a result of the pirate industry. This obvious contradiction portrayed by the industry leaves me undecided as to the real effect of copyright in today’s society.


  7. paulieecic92 says:

    I really think it’s the grey areas of modern copyright that need to be looked into. Everyone’s seen content on YouTube that’s been taken down due to copyright, but in many cases, these content forms are by no means detrimental to the original content or to its respective owners. It’s a hope of mine that in the future that the powerful content corporations come to realize the potential of ‘produser’ created content, to which in many cases only enriches and evolves original content in fresh and exciting new ways.


  8. James Swanson says:

    I was not actually aware of how the film industry is effected through piracy, and by the way it is brought up within today’s society, you’d think that it cost them so much more than it actually does. Thank you for helping me to see this.


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