Disney's Licensing Dogs Charge Underserved School District A Third Of Fundraiser Money For Playing 'Lion King' DVD

from the robbing-them-twice dept

When it comes to posts about copyright issues, I cannot say for certain that Disney is the most frequent commonality in those posts, but it just… feels like it’s probably true. After all, Disney has played such a heavy role in making copyright the over-extended, profit-driven, legal-cudgel bastardization of what copyright law was originally meant to be. Mickey Mouse himself is cited as the reason for copyright extensions in the past, and the company has been notorious in its zealous jealousy in protecting its copyrights.

But allowing your licensing partners to charge a school district for a third of the funds from a school fundraiser just because a parent brought a Lion King DVD to keep the kids happy during the event? That’s a bit much, even for Disney.

When an elementary school in Berkeley, California, hosted a “parent’s night out” fundraiser, they didn’t think playing the 2019 remake of “The Lion King” would do anything besides keep the kids happy. That was until Emerson Elementary School received an email from a licensing company Thursday — more than two months after the event — saying they had to pay $250 for illegally screening the movie.

“One of the dads bought the movie at Best Buy,” PTA president David Rose told CNN. “He owned it. We literally had no idea we were breaking any rules.”

It’s something we talk about all the time. Because of the twisted pretzel that copyright laws have become, it is quite possible for well-meaning folks to infringe upon copyright without having any idea that they’re doing so. That cannot possibly be what the framers of copyright law had in mind when they created it. Movie Licensing USA, Disney’s partner for managing licensing agreements, extracted $250 from the school’s $800 fundraiser for showing the movie to kids, and informed the school that they would have to pay the same amount for any future showings.

The parents and district paid, but weren’t happy about it. Because the universe is not without a sense of irony, part of the need for the fundraiser is, according to the district, the sweetheart real estate deal Disney got from California for the property it owns.

Berkeley City Council member Lori Droste, who is also a parent at Emerson Elementary, believes Disney is being unfair.

“There was an initiative passed in 1979 called Proposition 13 which casts the property tax on all land, and so Disney’s property tax rates are at 1978 values which translates into millions upon millions of dollars a year that Disney is not paying,” Droste told CNN.

“Because of that, our schools are now extremely underfunded,” she added. “We went from the ’70s being among the top education systems in the US to one of the lowest.”

So, to summarize, Disney benefits from a government deal and avoids paying taxes, which fund school districts, and then sent the licensing police to the doors of a fundraiser for one of those school districts to take $250 out of the coffers. At this point, it’s almost like they’re trying to be one of their movie villains.

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Comments on “Disney's Licensing Dogs Charge Underserved School District A Third Of Fundraiser Money For Playing 'Lion King' DVD”

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165 Comments
Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Why did they pay?

I get lots of invoices. Some are for domain names "expiring". Some are for "vehicle warranties that need renewal." I don’t pay any of them. If one day one of these is legitimate, I’m sure I’ll hear back.

Why did the school pay the $250? It’s an absurdly small and seemingly random number. Why not just toss it and see who’s stupid enough to file suit over $250 (less than half an hour of a California litigation attorney’s time).

E

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Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: "an expensive lawfirm to sue a broke school"

With a bit of media exposure, there are three possibilities:

~ Disney would halt the suit because it looks really bad.

~ Someone would crowdfund money to pay Disney, and perhaps get more for the school.

~ Another opportunity to fund the school would surface.

I just can’t imagine the public being that heartless to let a school go bankrupt over $250. I mean, it’s possible, but it would be an indictment of the society around the school.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: "an expensive lawfirm to sue a broke school"

Disney has shown, in the past, that they’ll cheerfully sue broke people into terminal debt. There’s a reason why comic writers no longer try to make caricatures of disney characters and why they earned the nickname "The Iran of the comic industry".

They know, by now, that whatever ill will they’ll earn for suing the poor and disadvantaged out of existence is mitigated by the warning example they send unto others.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "The Iran of the comic industry"

Now that Disney controls about half of all the franchises in existence (with Time-Warner controlling the other half) this kind of copyright extremist attitude is going to become a problem.

I sense a new golden age of piracy coming on, with no-one having sympathy for the empires.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 "The Iran of the comic industry"

"I sense a new golden age of piracy coming on, with no-one having sympathy for the empires."

Eh, you mean the one which started in the 80’s?

It’s not exactly what I’d call "new", but…whatever.

The problem the old empires are having is that by now every bad slogan and catchphrase they used has been exposed for the bullshit it is, whether it’s valentis "Boston strangler" comparison or "You wouldn’t download a car".

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Why did they pay?

"Why did the school pay the $250? It’s an absurdly small and seemingly random number. Why not just toss it and see who’s stupid enough to file suit over $250…"

Disney has, in the past, cheerfully sued over pennies and dimes, just to make a point.

As a warning unto others Disney would gladly sue the school out of existence completely. In fact, looking at past history, disneys lawyers welcome such opportunities.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Why did they pay?

"Because they’re pretty much guaranteed to pay out much more if they dare to contest it"

^And This, of course.

When your choices are "get screwed" and "get screwed worse" you may find that you’d rather pay the 250 and hope that’s the end of it. It’s essentially nothing more than an individual case of copyright trolling.

Copyright law lends itself all too well to legalized extortion.

And mind you, I can actually see that the school probably has good cause to dispute this as fair use and a reasonable chance to win. But as you say, the only guarantee they’ve got is that it’ll cost time and effort which well trumps what they stand to win.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Disney's Side

We used to project movies on the sides of houses in my neighborhood and we would throw some wild ass parties long before the instant communication of the internet and cell phones. I am pretty sure those companies got rich anyway!

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Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Disney's Side

Considering my grandparents were Holocaust survivors…

Yes, you should have considered your own grandparents.

…that’s fucking uncalled for…

Yes you sure were.

… you piece of shit…

No, Jordan, you’re the piece of shit.

But you know, I’ll be nice about it and not bring up MY grandparents, the holocaust survivors, because you’re a fricking three year old piece of shit that didn’t get flushed before he posted his swill.

Best regards, and by that I mean, go off yourself.
The world won’t miss you.

Ehud
P.S. Thanks for supporting Disney vs a little school that showed a DVD. Dick.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Disney's Side

"Which part of Nazi ideology was that then you fucker?"

GEMA’s information control guidelines, as laid down by "der führer" himself.

The greatest proponents of copyright as an information control tool were Hitler and Mussolini (who incidentally created the Ifpi).

You want to laud copyright, first be aware that it’s first and primary use has always been as a political tool for information control. And that it’s not a coincidence that many of the biggest original copyright watchdogs like GEMA and Ifpi, were created under fascist and nazi regimes respectively.

For a self-identified jew, of all people to not understand why laws prohibiting people from copying and distributing information is a very bad idea is just sadly ironic.

"Never forget" indeed, says he, then turns to cheer for the biggest force multiplier the nazis had…

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Disney's Side

I thought copyright infringement was a civil matter.

also – Law and order for law and order’s sake is stupid as is blind adherence, zero tolerance and minimum sentencing. Seems the law is not blind, is not equal and is continually used for personal gain.

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Bruce C. says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Disney's Side

While we’re throwing around Nazi references…law and order for law and order’s sake leads to the futile Nuremburg defense of "I was only following orders." Sometimes you just gotta make waves. Or at least refuse to be a part of something.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Disney's Side

I thought copyright infringement was a civil matter.

https://www.justice.gov/archives/jm/criminal-resource-manual-1847-criminal-copyright-infringement-17-usc-506a-and-18-usc-2319

Showing a DVD at a school fundraiser doesn’t meet the elements, but that doesn’t mean infringement is always a civil matter.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Disney's Side

"ehud you would spew such ill will over a mispelling of a word is exactly why your people will never have peace."

I’m not jewish but I’ll tell you that your english sucks as well – and not just in a simple typo form either.

so by your people do you in fact mean everyone with an education?

If so I’d have to agree, we really never get to have peace from all the fools surrounding us, particularly the unimaginative and short-sighted bigots who just can’t read a reference to <insert minority name A> without flying off the handle.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Disney's Side

Well devil You are another one who blindly shifts to ehud’s side even though he call me a derogatory name on a public playform over a mispelled word that by the way was not muspelled in 1965 when zi learned it. The spelling was changed by a consortium in 1971 for purposes of good will. Insulence was too insulting. Insolence was a more consoling way to tell yoy you’re a moron. I guess, Devil you don’t want peace either. Then you shall not have it.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Disney's Side

"I guess, Devil you don’t want peace either. Then you shall not have it."

right back to venting in your Hamilton suit again, eh, Baghdad bob?

Well, that’s fine. There never was peace to be found for any sensible person when your type of troll is around anyway. Not that you persistantly churning out ad homs and anti-semitic tropes is more annoying than hitting the flag button a few times…

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Disney's Side

"Prove I’m wrong? Don’t try. I’m an etymologist."

In addition to being a professional network tech, copyright lawyer, and successful businessman with a magna cum laude BSc I assume?

Damn, Baghdad bob, whatever aren’t you a well-paid expert in?

And that said "Insulence" still isn’t a word any modern dictionary will accept so if you want to use obsolete and abandoned words to play with you’d honestly be better off going with genuine auld english.

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Nathan F (profile) says:

Re: Disney's Side

If you are showing those movies as the actual event to draw the crowds for your fundraiser, no you can’t do that. This is a case of one of the parents bringing something to keep the kids occupied out out of the way while they were working. The showing of the movie was incidental to the actual fundraiser and the kids had no way of influencing the outcome of the fundraiser.

The parents are going to complain about this and the kids are going to hear it. Disney running roughshod over copyright laws like this causes people to ignore said laws and their kids pick up on that and do the same.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Disney's Side

"The parents are going to complain about this and the kids are going to hear it. Disney running roughshod over copyright laws like this causes people to ignore said laws and their kids pick up on that and do the same."

Which after several repeated iterations of the same leads to…people like the ones reading and commenting here. People who have little to no respect at all for that law which has repetitively taken the magic out of many parts of their childhood.

"This is a case of one of the parents bringing something to keep the kids occupied out out of the way while they were working."

You could argue fair use and that it was a simple case of one parent using the DVD for its intended purpose – showing it to family and friends.

But to make that stick in court you’d need to spend the effort winning said case in court, against disney’s legal team, and then probably countersue disney successfully in order to recoup your legal fees.

So what are you going to do? Pay the $250 or spend about three years having a pro bono part-time job of handling your case in court?

You can’t win. You can only pay the money and lose less. That, essentially, is the core of copyright – gaining control and/or money from legalized extortion.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Disney's Side

If Disney wasn’t such an idiot, they have just lost at least one school’s worth of kids and parents never buying, renting or viewing another Disney product and the word of mouth on this incident hopefully will spread like a wildfire across school districts. Disney just lost several million dollars over their lawyers’ idiocy.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Disney's Side

"Disney just lost several million dollars over their lawyers’ idiocy."

If only.

The school and a few of the parents are no doubt irate over it…but they aren’t going to go strip the joy out of their offspring’s few hours watching the lion king, or disney’s other fairy tales by sitting them down to tell them that the people who made that wonderful little tale happen to be evil penny-pinching versions of The Grinch.

Those kids will learn the same way we all did. By growing up into adulthood and only THEN finding our illusions rudely broken.

And pot odds are we’ll still buy disney DVD’s for our offspring..or at best, teach them responsible filesharing techniques.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Disney's Side

Well, scary devil, maybe that’s how you change the world (NOT) but all my kids were brought up knowing greedy self serving corporations who think its ok to screw the families of America and other kingdoms out of our hard earned money get the big STIFFO. That’s right. Boycott baby. We don’t do business with them and in this case, we don’t buy their movies even if it means watching Adams Family reruns over Lion King!

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Disney's Side

"even if it means watching Adams Family reruns over Lion King"

Addams Family? You mean the TV show currently owned by MGM? Yeah, you sure showed those major corporations!

Also, fun fact: the show was originally shown on ABC, which is now a Disney subsidiary. I wonder if they still get any rerun money from you?

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Disney's Side

"Well, scary devil, maybe that’s how you change the world (NOT) but all my kids were brought up knowing greedy self serving corporations who think its ok to screw the families of America and other kingdoms out of our hard earned money get the big STIFFO."

That’s great for your kids. You aren’t, however, in the majority.

And until you are the majority, Disney will continue to get away with screwing the weak at every turn, because enough casual conformers will be left to make them a very fat profit indeed.

The history of the Tyrant of Animation and the studios still bearing his name tells a lot about what you can get away with. Walt Disney was a thoroughly dreadful person who abused and exploited his staff, weaponized the UnAmerican actions committee against the early unions, had to be held back from physically assaulting picket lines and ridiculed his hardest workers in public.

That he hung out with anti-semites and personally put the foot down on hiring black people for disneyland only adds icing to the shitcake curriculum vitae of "Uncle Walt".

And yet this prick combining the worst traits of a racist fascist with the avarice and grump of the Grinch is fondly remembered today all thanks to multiple generations of star-struck little children. In the PR game, Disney are hard to beat.

Kudos on you for exercising critical scrutiny though.

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Rocky says:

Re: Disney's Side

Having the law on your side doesn’t negate the fact that you can also be morally corrupt.

A company with any morals at all would have let this slide, since the fundraiser was for helping the school pay for teachers and scholarships.

What’s even worse, Disney had the stomach to go after a PTA screening of the Lion King which is a plagiarizing of Kimba, The White Lion:

Kimba is the story of a white lion cub whose father is king of the jungle. But, after his father is murdered and he is kidnapped and eventually becomes lost at sea. He, through a long journey, finds his way home only to find an evil lion name Claw, who is missing an eye and has hyena henchmen, has taken over his kingdom. They fight and Kimba eventually wins.

Disney even went after the Kimba movie Jungle Emperor Leo when the studio behind it wanted to release it in the USA. That movie started production in 1988, a tad earlier than the "original" Lion King.

All in all in regards to the Lion King and Disney, they come across as a company that has zero morals and scruples, and can in my opinion take their so called "original stories" and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine, because it’s all plagiarized in one way or another from other sources.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Disney's Side

"All in all in regards to the Lion King and Disney, they come across as a company that has zero morals and scruples, and can in my opinion take their so called "original stories" and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine, because it’s all plagiarized in one way or another from other sources."

Which is, again, one part of why copyright law is so VERY bad. Every last one of disney’s movies is a derivative of an old classic fairy tale or mythology thousands of years old.

They abuse said myth, make a lot of money…then go after anyone daring to make a derivative of either their story or the original myth because copyright.

Disney is like a monopolist candy maker who tries very hard to present himself as a cheerful old uncle while his business model consists entirely of giving children wonderful little pills which make them feel good and leaves them wanting more, then extorts their parents for money…and if some parent tries to cook up a batch of homemade candies tasting about the same he sends his legbreakers to rectify their error the hard way.

It’s always been that way. Disney is KING of PR, because everyone just sees the tinseltown glitter, not the hard-eyed profitmonger willing to walk over corpses.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Disney's Side

I don’t see why you would side with the multinational corporation. As others have pointed out, someone merely brought a movie to entertain the kids while the adults were working. That’s honestly pretty innocuous. It wasn’t part of the fundraiser so should be irrelevant.

The fact you are siding with Disney bullying a broke school says far more about the integrity of your character than anything else.

Sure, Disney TECHNICALLY has the legal right to demand money but in cases such as these it’s more "Just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD." If Disney truly cared, they would let this slide but the fact they sicked IP lawyers on a PTA event shows they lack any moral fiber.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: IP lawyers sicked on a PTA event

My guess is that Disney contracts out a legal firm to watch out for copyright violations and act to intercept them, and the legal firm took initiative.

This is my understanding of how we end up with millions of YouTube takedowns that target dancing babies and official promotional videos.

It would also explain the countless lawsuits against public and commercial nurseries that have Disney characters in their murals.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: IP lawyers sicked on a PTA event

My guess is that Disney contracts out a legal firm to watch out for copyright violations and act to intercept them, and the legal firm took initiative.

This is the question I have after reading the article– how the hell did Disney even know about this?

If the movie was just being shown in a side room to keep kids occupied and not as part of the event itself, then it certainly wasn’t mentioned in any of the promotional materials for the event.

Did one of the parents just happen to work for Disney or something? Or was one of them some compulsive narc that is compelled to tattle on everyone for everything? Or do these DVDs automatically report back to Disney if they’re played on a smart TV now? Because honestly, I’m having a hard time imagining how the Disney legal team found out what was on a TV in a back room of some school fundraiser 600 miles from L.A.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 IP lawyers sicked on a PTA event

"Because honestly, I’m having a hard time imagining how the Disney legal team found out what was on a TV in a back room of some school fundraiser 600 miles from L.A."

Could be the automated trawl of one of disneys copyright troll outfits finding the right set of keywords in the local newspaper and reporting it.

One very sad part of copyright law is that it heavily encourages third-rate lawyers and copyright holders to investigate and actively search for EVERY potential violation, no matter how small, because it may result in big money or a warning unto others.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 IP lawyers sicked on a PTA event

The world for generation after generation has become so diluted with Disney and Disney characters, Disney this and Disney that, Disney Disney Disney that everyone should be able to use the characters at will for whatever they want. We are so full of Disney. We have all contributed to Disney. Get some young lawyer working for Disney telling US that we can’t use Disney?? That is laughable.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"Walt is turning in his grave… again."

Not really, no…by all accounts Walt Disney was a pretty terrible person. He enjoyed humiliating his employees in scathing bullying sessions, ridiculed his family (who did a lot to help him privately and in his work) in public, had a pretty mean temper and liked to report people he didn’t get along with to the congressional UnAmerican Activities Committee.

When his animators tried forming a union he brought in armed guards and, facing a strike picket, had to be physically restrained from assaulting it.

And it may just have been a product of the times but he was too closely linked for comfort to open anti-semites in the MPAA and personally put his foot down oin hiring black and coloured people as staff in disneyland.

As a whole, "Uncle Walt" was a pretty fucking terrible pos and a failure as a human being.

We don’t really like to recall that in the magic he put on screen he was the wicked stepmother and prince john, not the fairy godmother or robin hood.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"And it may just have been a product of the times but he was too closely linked for comfort to open anti-semites in the MPAA…"

…and reading up more closely on this it turns out he’d been observed outright attending american nazi-party sessions and was so welcoming of Lene Riefenstahl that she returned to germany bursting with praise for certain americans not falling for "The jewish smear campaign".

Caramba. The more I dig into Disney’s history the more stomach-turning he becomes…

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"I hate people who bad mouth the dead, such disrepect."

You don’t get a pass for being an asshole just by being dead.

Your willingness to offer respect to the legacies of villaneous scum and terrible people is duly noted.
And funnily I now have even less respect for your trolling than i did earlier, Baghdad Bob, if that was even possible.

"Didn’t they teach you that in the monastery?"

Learn your anagrams.

Igualmente69 (profile) says:

Look, Disney and the rights organizations suck, no question about it.
But ‘There was an initiative passed in 1979 called Proposition 13 which casts the property tax on all land, and so Disney’s property tax rates are at 1978 values which translates into millions upon millions of dollars a year that Disney is not paying," Droste told CNN.’ is a lie. They are not stuck at 1978 values, they in fact can increase up to 2% a year.
So uh, yeah, think about that next time you hear someone on CNN talking about "Fake News."

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Want to try and guess how much land values in California have increased since 1978? Not 2% a year, by any means. Wait: Not "by up to" 2% a year.

And that’s not counting other loopholes in the law that allow commercial property to be transferred without triggering reassessment.

So while neither the quoted individual’s comment or yours were technically true, hers is a hell of a lot less BS than yours.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Dangit, who let those weasels in here?!

They are not stuck at 1978 values, they in fact can increase up to 2% a year.

Those two conditionals provide loopholes large enough to sail battleships through, and for some strange reason I expect that they have been used plenty by Disney and the politicians they own.

Even assuming they haven’t been though, and in fact have consistently been applied at the maximum amount each and every year, the question then becomes ‘how does that compare to the regular tax rate?’ Because if the rates have been higher overall than +2% a year Disney would still be getting one hell of an unearned deal.

Bruce C. says:

Re: Re: Dangit, who let those weasels in here?!

So in other words, current property tax assessments are based on 1990’s values…prop 13 was intended to keep individuals from being kicked out of their homes because property taxes rose faster than income. It was never intended to be a tax break for commercial property holders. Or at least, that’s the way it was pitched to voters.

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DB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Dangit, who let those weasels in here?!

To make it clear, the Prop 13 "loophole" is that business properties are now commonly owned by a single-purpose corporation. Rather than sell the property, which resets tax basis to the selling price, the corporation is sold. That retains the original tax basis.

Because of the mortgage interest deduction and various other laws (including zoning), individual homeowners can’t do this.

The result is that over time commercial properties have ended up paying a far lower share of property taxes than they did before.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Plus, Prop 13 doesn’t just apply to big corps like Disney. It applies to everyone in California. So according to Droste, the fact that the legislature hasn’t blown property taxes through the stratosphere like they have every other kind of tax means we’re all not paying money she thinks we should be.

Prop 13 is the only reason millions of people can still afford to keep their own homes because if the legislature hadn’t been muzzled with regard to property taxes, they’d have gone hog wild with them by now and have driven most of the middle and lower classes out of their homes.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"So according to Droste, the fact that the legislature hasn’t blown property taxes through the stratosphere like they have every other kind of tax means we’re all not paying money she thinks we should be."

Well, looking at it from the pov of an investigative journalist investigating corporate tax law abuse she might have a point, but…

"Prop 13 is the only reason millions of people can still afford to keep their own homes…"

And that’s probably also true. Plenty of examples where middle-class people settle, twenty years later the land values are through the roof, and that middle class demographic suddenly can’t afford to pay taxes on the gold-plated ground they’re sitting on now.

Property tax is one of those concepts which really only works as intended if you have some sort of regulation on land value – which in itself comes with caveats.
And the reasoning behind property tax to begin with is…murkier than most, most often just being a penalty for owning property.

Income tax at least makes sense since it’s based on your real ability to contribute, but property tax easily ends up screwing people in a way which either forces them to move or file for bankruptcy based completely on how the land values fluctuate.

Rocky says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Property tax is one of things that really doesn’t make sense. I can see the state charging a property owner a yearly administrative cost to cover for all the things related to keeping track of owners, permits, utilities, zoning and such as a valid course of action, but taxing a property based on it’s value has never sat well with me since it can led to people being forced from a property which has been in their family for generations just because the area has suddenly become popular.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

This wouldn’t be nearly an issue if our land-use regulations and planning processes weren’t so onerous as to make development the exclusive province of well-connected Developers™…

Filed under: if you want to do it right, maybe, just maybe, you should be able to do it yourself?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

I’m talking about people putting in stuff on the land they already have, or even simply remodeling existing buildings (such as their own house). You should take your local zoning code for a spin sometime, it might give you an idea of just what you’d be up against if you wished to do something as simple as add an ADU with your next remodel, never mind converting your house into a duplex or a live/work unit.

And if you want to go beyond that, that’s possible too. You don’t need to build a megaplex to get into real estate development — it wouldn’t surprise me at all if most landlords got their start by grabbing a fixer-upper house, whipping it into shape, and putting out a "For Rent" sign. (Never mind the fact that most construction is financed through a bank giving the developer a construction loan, the new-build equivalent to you getting a mortgage when you buy a house.)

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"Property tax is one of things that really doesn’t make sense."

The only validation I’ve ever seen for property tax is as part of a social engineering function – government incentive for people to gradually migrate according to their changing means. But that validation quite obviously fails when property value changes as rapidly as it does.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You left out an option re: adapting to increased land valuations, and that’s developing the land further. A simple example of this, and one well within the reach of average homeowners in places that permit it, would be putting an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) in and renting it out (whether it be a short-term or a long-term rental). Of course, it’s possible to go further, with full-scale duplex, triplex, or micro mixed-use conversions being within the reach of the construction-savvy; micro-replats are also possible, where a large expanse of yard gets turned into an entire lot of its own that can then be sold off, but these options run into more regulatory friction in many areas.

Part of the problem, though, is the idea that we tax buildings and other improvements at the same rate as underlying land, which penalizes folks for doing things like that. Split-rate property taxation (taxing assessed land value at one rate, and improvement value at a second, lesser rate) helps ameliorate that issue (and is doable: Harrisburg, PA uses it, for one), while keeping land values under check by making it less economical to speculate on vacant lots and such. (Look into "land value taxes" and the accompanying work of Henry George if you want an idea of why this all works. Think of it this way: cities are infrastructure service providers, and property tax basically should be considered like a service-charge for city infrastructure services (like plowed and crater-free streets, water mains that work when you turn the tap, and so on).

Furthermore, all this has to contend with the proliferation of orderly-but-dumb, or daft even, single-family-only zoning laws that put neighborhoods "under glass" and prohibit them from adapting to higher land valuations outright in the way I describe, a prohibition that is simply put, ahistorical. Large minimum lot sizes, prohibitions on ADUs, duplexes, and neighborhood mixed-use, onerous off-street parking requirements, and excessive setbacks have as much to do with creating the "move out or go bankrupt" situation you describe, through strict segregation of uses and onerous planning processes that restrict development to Developers™ instead of letting ordinary people build up their neighborhoods in response to actual market demand, board by board, brick by brick, as the actual rise in property values does, if not more so.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Stuck in the past

"I guess Disney is gonna Disney. But this crossed even Disney’s line and now they’re gone way past copyright maximalism into copyright maleficentism. "

No lines crossed. This is still just Disney being Disney. They’ve always been this way and targeting the kids has always had wonderful effects on the parent’s willingness to pay.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Stuck in the past

I remember really wanting to find the way to Sesame Street when I was a kid! I don’t think that show was Disney’s brainchild. And my sister told me there was NO SANTA CLAUS one Christmas eve at 3 ish early morning as I stared out the window at the clear starry night sky knowing Santa might appear at any moment! I really wanted to meet Snow White too!

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Stuck in the past

"I don’t think that show was Disney’s brainchild."

Not really, no. That’s why I keep saying the Disney corporation is possibly the best example of PR in action. Any time someone comes up with a series, show or studio capable of entertaining the young Disney buys it up. Resulting in the current paradigm where everyone assumes if the cartoon or puppet show was funny and wholesome there’s a disney logo on it somewhere.

And when they aren’t entertaining kids they lobby for copyright law extensions and sue the parents. The cognitive disconnect between their behavior and their product is a wide chasm to get across.

Bruce C. says:

If Disney's PR department...

has an ounce of sense, they’ll make a donation for a significant multiple of the licensing fee to the school’s fundraiser. That way they satisfy their perceived obligation to shareholders to collect all licensing fees while satisfying the public that they aren’t complete douchebags. Or at least that portion of the public that still has any doubt about whether they are douchebags

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
ryuugami says:

What I’d like to know is… how the hell did they even find out? I can’t imagine the fundraising itself being a major news story that a Disney lawyer might encounter and wonder if there’s a way to ruin it. Do they have Mouseketeers trawling social media posts for any mention of a Disney IP or what?

I did like the last quote in the CNN article:

"We would be enthusiastic about paying the license fee if Disney was willing to have their properties reassessed and pay some additional property taxes."

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"What I’d like to know is… how the hell did they even find out?"

There is heavy incentive in actively looking for any copyright violation, no matter how minor. So copyright troll outfits look for it and if they can use said violation to extort some cash themselves they will. Otherwise they pass the information on for a modest sum.
…and that’s how Disney’s legal department finds out. Crooked lawyers and third-rate techs with trawlers searching google for headlines indicating there’s a case of copyright infringement to profit from.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

"…pay some additional property taxes."

I’m glad I’m not in California anymore, but I still get tired of hearing about people whining about Proposition 13. California has high sales tax, high income tax, and a state government that takes local property taxes from the communities and redistributes them as it sees fit. Heck, as of 2010, they had property tax revenue that was fairly average compared to other states. https://taxfoundation.org/weekly-map-sources-state-and-local-tax-revenue-property-tax/

Hey, California schools, your state doesn’t have a property tax problem. Your state doesn’t even have a tax revenue problem.
https://taxfoundation.org/state-local-tax-collections-per-capita-2019/

Quit making Prop 13 the boogeyman.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"To be fair, the fine print on the disc said it was "licensed for private home exhibition only", and this was not a private home exhibition."

It is if the dad bringing the DVD took the kids aside to watch the movie with that clearly not being a part of the fundraiser.

Put it like this, if you were having those same families over for a big dinner and the kids sat in your living room watching that DVD, would it be lawful?

There’s nothing fair about it. Disney sends a bill and as per usual has a cadre of lawyers ready to publicly hang the opposition as a warning unto others if they don’t cave to the extortion.

It’s the same malicious principle we’ve observed EVERY time the name "Disney" comes up in connotation with law, and copyright law specifically.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

"Disney has played such a heavy role in making copyright the over-extended, profit-driven, legal-cudgel bastardization of what copyright law was originally meant to be."

Sorry, Mike…but what you describe is exactly what copyright was always meant to be. It remains, today, the spiritual successor of catholic blasphemy laws and political censorship tools with the sole intent to establish information control.

All the bull about "protecting artists" is a very late and tangential add-on in the arsenal of the copyright adherent industries whose business models keep relying on no one else being allowed to pass on interesting information.

"Because of the twisted pretzel that copyright laws have become, it is quite possible for well-meaning folks to infringe upon copyright without having any idea that they’re doing so."

That was always the intent. Copyright – and patent law – have been designed to be abused in the first place. We keep forgetting that a surprising amount of culture and technology emerged just fine without any IP law what so ever – or more often in blatant circumvention of it.

Those laws are still nothing more than tools meant to ensure that once one person has climbed the ladder and made it they can then kick it down so no one else can follow.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: What about the whole "science and the useful arts" thing?

Giving our constitutional framers the benefit of the doubt, I assumed they were using copyright as model for a system they thought was useful.

The thing is, what with integrated peonage and all, it’s not to difficult to assume our federal system was started in bad faith, or to be specific, to only serve the interests of rich English noble landowners.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: What about the whole "science and the useful arts" thing?

"Giving our constitutional framers the benefit of the doubt, I assumed they were using copyright as model for a system they thought was useful."

They had some doubt. Go google Thomas Jeffersson’s letter to Isaac MacPherson. There’s a reason article 1, section 8 provides congress with the option to secure intellectual property law, rather than enshrining such law in an amendment.

The founding fathers were damn doubtful about IP and it’s my guess if they could have foreseen what it would look like two centuries down the line there’d have been an amendment saying "And any form of copyright and patents shall be banned and no such laws promulgated. We Mean This!".

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Disney used to be praised. That was when Walt Disney ran the show. I guess things are tough allover."

Yeah. Being a closet nazi sympathizer on top of openly being a misogynist and racist just isn’t as well received anymore.

Nor does abusing and exploiting your staff and trying to get unionizers on Hoover’s shit list.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Yeah, wrong Hoover.

I’m not surprised that a corporation wants to "save costs" by weaseling its employees out of the benefits due to them, but not many of them try to screw employees by getting them framed (and subsequently destroyed) by the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover.

Walt Disney was a piece of work. It’s hard for most people to connect the guy who made "Snow White" with the bigoted sociopath who Riefenstahl praised for his "opinions" visavi the jewish right before WW2.

Anonymous Coward says:

The school deserved to be fined by Disney. Anyone who has purchased a DVD or Blu-ray has obviously read the notice regarding public performances for THAT movie or TV show. "Public performances of this movie are not allowed". DVD’s and movies are sold or rented for private performances, in the confines of your home. The school violated copyright law and deserved to be fined.

sumgai (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Seems to me that Disney didn’t "ask", they demanded, with lawyers yet.

What gripes me the most is that the sheep simply folded without so much as a "huh?", and paid the bastards. (If they did seek a lawyer’s advice, I wasn’t aware of that. But any good lawyer would’ve at least said "let me look into this for you", and come back with "Nah, don’t bother, they’re full of shit.")

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"What gripes me the most is that the sheep simply folded without so much as a "huh?", and paid the bastards. (If they did seek a lawyer’s advice, I wasn’t aware of that. But any good lawyer would’ve at least said "let me look into this for you", and come back with "Nah, don’t bother, they’re full of shit.")"

Unless they could get a lawyer to work their case pro bono their legal fees would come to far more than $250.

It’s how copyright trolling works. You ask for money in the surety that any actual trial – or even good legal advice – will result in the victim being out far more than what you asked for.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"Unless they could get a lawyer to work their case pro bono their legal fees would come to far more than $250."

…and even if they could, there’s a non-zero chance that the court would side with Disney’s much higher paid and more experienced specialist lawyers. If so, a punitive fine could be levied that’s much higher than the demanded fee.

Also, our friend above seems to forget the rest of the story. By not fighting in court but rather in the court of public opinion the school has actually profited:

https://www.berkeleyside.com/2020/02/06/disney-ceo-apologizes-for-lion-king-fee-says-hell-donate-to-berkeley-school-himself

Principles are worth fighting for, but going into a legal battle against a major corporation over $250 is not usually the best option.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: "Deserved"

Disney deserves to be seized via eminent domain, dismantled and all its words dropped into the public domain, considering the long list of bad faith policies that have been enacted by the company and by Walt, himself.

Considering how the news every day is an indictment of the failed rule of law, and our stratified society, it is only with great hubris that anyone claims anywhere what someone deserves.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"DVD’s and movies are sold or rented for private performances, in the confines of your home. The school violated copyright law and deserved to be fined."

In other words if you are anywhere but inside your home and watching the movie in the company of friends, you deserve to be fined.

Say, on a camping trip with the children of you and your friends?

Nicely done, copyright troll, you just delivered every possible ethical argument as to why copyright has to go.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

"Anyone who has purchased...has obviously read..."

Anyone who has purchased Disney media has more likely read the advertisements claiming OWN IT TODAY! much less the microprint engraved on the side of the disk or printed in six-point font on the insert.

By own the implication is once you own the media it is recorded on, you can do whatever you want with it. Adverts don’t even suggest some restrictions apply*

OGquaker says:

Autuer only dead 25 years so far

My daddy used to pilfer color prints of Shell’s "The Fossil Story", US Steel’s "Steel Builds The West" California’s "The 49 Trail", "American Potash" et.al. and my grammar school would run them in the auditorium for everyone. He wrote, edited and filmed them, but held no copy rights & i guess no one ratted us out.

P.S. Walt was a jerk & an FBI informer, trading gossip for access, according to the FBI. He conned the DOD out of a Polaris missile computer to run "Mr. Lincoln", and (Wiki) ….Disney retaliated by depicting some of the striking employees in caricature in Dumbo as antagonistic circus clowns, and on one occasion even attacked a strike picketer.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Autuer only dead 25 years so far

True enough. Walt Disney wouldn’t have been able to set up a corner store today. Racists and anti-semites have a very slim niche market.

Disney has always been an incredibly skilled PR machine whitewashing a corporate culture using recycled mythology to extract maximum profits from children.

Walt was just that sleazy con man who found that you could make a lot of money out of the dreams of the young.

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