If you’ve ever applied for, or Josh Escovedo 02_finalresearched copyright law, you likely learned one thing above all else: it’s not a perpetual right. So, how, you might wonder, have companies like The Walt Disney Company managed to maintain copyrights on certain creations for almost 100 years? In the case of the Walt Disney Company, the answer is simple. It is powerful enough that it actually changed United States copyright law before its rights were going to expire.

When copyright law was first codified in the United States pursuant to the United States Copyright Act, the copyright duration was limited to 14 years. Today, copyrights can last over 100 years. That’s a huge change, and there are an overwhelming number of copyright experts that will tell you that it is all because of a mouse.

Now that may be a slight overstatement. The copyright duration changed some prior to the creation of Mickey Mouse. The Copyright Act of 1790 included a provision that provided for an additional 14-year term if the creator was alive. Of course, at that point, copyright protection only applied to select creations such as maps and books. But 41 years later, in 1831, the Act was amended to allow for an initial 28-year term, with eligibility for a 14-year extension. Thereafter, in 1909, the Act was changed again to allow for a 28-year renewal instead.

Continue Reading Disney’s Influence on United States Copyright Law

transparentYou don’t have to be a Disney enthusiast like myself to be familiar with its latest blockbuster franchise, Frozen.  To date, the film has grossed over 1.2 billion dollars in worldwide box office revenue, making it the highest-grossing animated film of all time, and the fifth highest-grossing film overall.  The fact is, Frozen has taken the world by storm since its November 27, 2013 release, and it does not appear to be letting up as Disney is planning on opening a Frozen themed ride at Walt Disney World and a Frozen musical on Broadway.  Nonetheless, one New Jersey woman is seeking to put an immediate halt on Disney’s cash cow with the filing of her complaint for copyright infringement in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.

On September 22, 2014, Isabella Tanikumi—also known as L. Amy Gonzalez, filed a complaint against the Walt Disney Company (“Disney”) alleging copyright infringement because Disney purportedly stole at least eighteen (18) elements of Frozen from her 2010 autobiography, Living My Truth.  Specifically, Ms. Tanikumi has cited the following similarities: (1) both stories involve villages at the base of snow covered mountains; (2) both stories involve two sisters with different colored hair; (3) both stories involve one of the two sisters injuring the other; (4) both stories have two male characters who act as the romantic interest of one of the sisters; and (5) open doors/gates are involved in the endings of both respective tales.  This list is merely illustrative, but for those of you who wish to see the entire list, feel free to read the complaint and its attachment by clicking Isabelle Tanikumi AKA L. Amy Gonzalez v. The Walt Disney Company.  In the interest of providing full disclosure, the remaining similarities do not get much more mind blowing than those stated above.  Regardless, Ms. Tanikumi obviously believes that she has been wronged by Disney, but whether she can prevail on these farfetched claims remains to be seen.
Continue Reading New Jersey Woman Refuses to “Let It Go.”