Republicans Set Mickey Mouse Trap for Disney Cartoon’s Copyright Due to Company’s ‘Radical Political Activism’

Craig Bannister | April 8, 2022 | 10:23am EDT
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Mickey Mouse in 'Steamboat Willie' (Screenshot)

The copyright of one of Disney’s most iconic cartoons is in jeopardy, now that the company has begun practicing “radical political activism,” leading Republicans warn the children’s entertainment giant.

By allowing Disney copyrights to expire, Republicans hope to diminish Disney’s profits and, by extension, its influence over young children and ability to indoctrinate them on radical political ideologies, National Review reports. The effort is being spearheaded by Indiana Republican Rep. Jim Banks:

“Representative Jim Banks (R., Ind.), who chairs the Republican Study Committee, a prominent caucus with significant influence over GOP legislative efforts, is presently circulating a letter addressed to Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek expressing opposition to ‘further extensions applicable’ to Disney’s copyrights.

“In the letter, Banks cites the company’s ‘kowtowing’ to the People’s Republic of China, as well as its opposition to the Parental Rights in Education bill — which Banks argues represents a capitulation to ‘far-left activists through hypocritical, woke corporate actions’ — as reasons for opposing another copyright extension.”

The first Disney product at risk of losing its copyright is the company’s ground-breaking Steamboat Willie, which ended animation’s silent era and launched Walt Disney’s career, the Museum of Modern Arts explains:

“Disney’s Steamboat Willie is a landmark in the history of animation. The first film starring Mickey Mouse to be released with synchronized sound, it threw silent animation into obsolescence and launched an empire. Previously, there had been little to distinguish Disney’s cartoons from those of his competitors. He was facing bankruptcy when director Alan Crosland’s film The Jazz Singer—with long sequences of song and dialogue—took the United States by storm in 1927. Sensing that movies with sound meant big business, Disney decided to stake all on his talking mouse. The movie opened at New York’s Colony Theater on November 18, 1928, a date that would become known as Mickey’s birthday.”

If Republicans gain control of Congress in November’s mid-term elections, they will be able to prevent the extension of Steamboat Willie’s copyright when it comes up for renewal in 2024. Without the copyright, Disney would lose both royalties and exclusive use of the Mickey Mouse’s image, The Washington Examiner explains.:

“Disney has been wildly successful in lobbying for copyright extensions in the past. It was part of the driving force in passing the Copyright Act of 1976 and then worked again to get the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 past the finish line. Detractors of the latter bill branded it the ‘Mickey Mouse Protection Act.’”

“While the 2024 expiration just applies to the 1924 Steamboat Willie version of Mickey Mouse, and other depictions of the famous rodent would be protected, it would still represent a major blow for Disney and allow other companies to use Mickey’s likeness with no strings attached and without paying Disney royalties.”

“Congress should not add to Disney’s 90+ years of federal copyright protection to incentivize its new far left agenda,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told National Review, adding that it’s unlikely Disney will have the ear of any Republican, now that it has “given in to the woke mob.”

“Disney is in uncharted waters because of the radical activism of its corporate leadership,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told National Review. “It’s not clear how this whole thing plays for them, but they have made themselves the face of efforts to indoctrinate 5-year-old children on gender identity.”

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