Disney Lawyers Chose Not To Sue You For Posting Your Disney World Vacation Videos... But They Could!

from the how-nice-of-them dept

In a world where so much that you see and hear on a daily basis is covered by copyright, it certainly makes it difficult to just film people walking around, like on a vacation, and post it to the internet. It becomes even more difficult when that vacation happens to be in a theme park, which is chock full of characters and content protected by copyright and trademark laws. Copycense points us to an attempt by the site WalletPop to find out the legality of posting your Disney vacation family videos to YouTube that results in nothing close to a reasonable answer. The short version is that Disney's lawyers basically have the option to sue, but realize it's probably a bad decision in most cases. But they certainly don't encourage it, and you could see circumstances under which they might actually sue.

Of course, some will immediately claim that there's no real issue here, given that Disney has chosen not to sue. But just the very liability is a bit scary. What if you film too much of a ride? Or part of the ride has music or videos playing the background that might lead to legal threats? It certainly does create something of a chilling effect.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: copyright, home videos
Companies: disney

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. icon
    scarr (profile), 1 Apr 2010 @ 12:26am

    Monorail accident

    I'm reminded how they went to work getting the footage of the aftermath of the monorail accident at Disney World pulled from everything they could. At the time, and frankly even now, I'm not sure how they could claim any rights over it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2010 @ 12:44am

    If corporations are considered persons, under the eyes of the law, and cartoon characters are considered a form of property then it stands to reason that Mickey Mouse and the gang are kinds of pseudo-slaves forced to make children smile and laugh until 2023 and beyond!

    So long as The Walt Disney Company can make money then it also stands to reason that the characters will never enter the public domain.

    Money is always much more important than our shared culture.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Archbishop, 1 Apr 2010 @ 12:53am

    Funny, someone asked me a couple days ago if Disney would start suing people with Disney tattoos. I said I honestly didn't know. They do plenty of dumb stuff.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2010 @ 1:01am


    I used to work at a graphics place doing signage and would always get a kick out of telling potential customers that making a decal of Disney characters to plaster on their vehicle was copyright infringement and was illegal.

    They would always look at me like I was the crazy one and then my boss would tell me do it because, hey, money is money.

    I still have nightmares over making a decal of Calvin peeing on Hobbes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Apostol Apostolov, 1 Apr 2010 @ 2:09am


    The moment someone films Disney World vacation using a 3D camera and posts it in a 3D-capable platform (YouTube) and it shows to everyone on a 3D monitor, Disney will sue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Josef, 1 Apr 2010 @ 2:16am

    Let them sue

    I say unleash the lawyers on the "customers" that are told how family friendly the Disney theme parks are.

    So let them sue. I wonder what kind of settlement they would get from a family that just spent their vacation savings on the theme park. I don't think I can imagine a worse PR nightmare for Disney.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Oh THAT Brian!, 1 Apr 2010 @ 5:18am

    Experience with other companies

    I remember going to a character-oriented pizza company (no, not THEM!) and trying to take a picture of our children on their indoor carousel. The manager almost screamed at us that pictures weren't allowed due to copyright! We cancelled our pizza order and left.

    Several other parents around us also decided to suddenly leave.

    Word spread rather quickly, and in about 2 months, they shut their doors - permanently. I never heard what happened to that chain, but they obviously didn't learn that you have to tread softly in the land of copyright, fair use and parent's photo memories.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Jimr (profile), 1 Apr 2010 @ 6:09am

    Vacation as news broadcasts

    I treat my vacation photographs and videos as news worthy events and portray them as such. Much like a annual news special on my web site.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Michael, 1 Apr 2010 @ 6:15am

    It's the camera!

    The video camera is the Boston Strangler of...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Mark, 1 Apr 2010 @ 6:40am

    Re: Let them sue

    I would have to agree with you....Disney World claims to be family friendly and yet they treat many people like garbage, and the mere thought that they would consider suing....Hahaha...What a joke...Like you said, that would be the worst PR nightmare that they would know and wouldn't have a clue as to how to recover from it...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Jon, 1 Apr 2010 @ 7:54am

    Oh come on...

    A little common sense, please. No, Disney is not going to sue you over your vacation photos or videos, assuming you take "normal" vacation photos and videos and use or share them in "normal" ways. Yes, they retain the option to sue (which they should), but that would only be used in cases where someone was posting entire ride videos or footage of shows that had nothing to do with the family vacation, but were being posted and shared as something along the lines of being able to "see Disney World without going to Disney World". Posting pics and video of your kids with Disney World in the background is a LOT different than posting pics and video of Disney World attractions where great pains were kept to keep the images "clean" without park guests showing up in them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2010 @ 7:58am

    Re: Oh come on...

    If Disney World's experience can be replicated by a video of a ride, they have bigger problems to worry about.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2010 @ 8:15am

    April Fools!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    thomas, 1 Apr 2010 @ 1:46pm

    Wouldn't surprise me

    The entertainment industry tries to sue or charge for everything they possibly can. I'm wondering if they warn people about it before they enter the park? the solution is simple; don't visit the Disney parks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2010 @ 10:14pm

    No Issue at All

    Of course, some will immediately claim that there's no real issue here, given that Disney has chosen not to sue.

    Like there's no real issue involved if someone holds a cocked and loaded gun to your head, as long as they don't pull the trigger.

    Terrorists in suits are called "lawyers".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Apr 2010 @ 12:08am

    Re: No Issue at All

    That's an insult to terrorists.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    Cody Jackson (profile), 2 Apr 2010 @ 1:50am

    So where's the copy?

    Copyright is supposed to be about the holder's right to produce and distribute copies, right? So how is taking pictures or movies while on vacation making copies of Disney IP?

    No one is going to "bootleg" your videos and consider them authentic Disney movies. Disney is losing no money by having these in public. AAMOF, they are getting a lot of free advertising from people showing the fun they are having.

    If Disney truly has the ability to file lawsuits upholding copyright, that should be the last straw proving that copyright laws need to be fixed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Jose_X, 2 Apr 2010 @ 9:21pm

    Derivative works definition has to be narrowed significantly (and copyright duration shortened)

    Disney has already made a ton of money on their creations (based on ideas from others btw). Allowing them to hold on and on and on means those stories and characters could have been developed much further by others by now but have not (thankfully Disney is giving away much more than they have to as this posting at the top reveals!!!!!). Of course, with copyright as long as it is, this will remain the case for many decades and perhaps centuries to come. Eventually, Disney will get lazier and lazier and lazier and still society, who by now owns these characters in terms of being a part of social collective shared consciousness (eg, like a common language and culture), will continue to be limited in growth and value-add for all of these decades Disney sits further and further on their buttocks collecting royalties or forcing injunctions on works of others [the real problem is the broadness of the "derivative works" definition, eg, as indicated by the picture taking!]

    Authors doing the initial work perhaps deserve a break beyond merely the fame and opportunities they'd normally get without any monopoly at all, but deserving so are those a little less talented perhaps who excel at combining existing works. In fact, Disney is not ashamed to leverage existing ideas of others.

    Anything can be called a "derivative work" if you are loose enough in meaning. [Everything is a derivative of many other things to some degree.] This broadness turns what most people think is copyright protections into something not too unlike patent protection where new works by others can be blocked based on semblances of existing works.

    Really, while Disney rakes in the dough year after year on things they created ages ago, scores of talented people sit unable to legally modify such works or create new ones with similar themes and ideas. Not everyone has had the money to put together something from scratch that is as vast as what Disney can accomplish so as to compete with Disney.

    Anyway, while we wait for copyright laws to be improved (eg, duration period shortened significantly and the derivative works definition narrowed significantly), artists can and should start leveraging open licenses like the CC share-alike licenses and even things like GPL if the project includes raw sources. By teaming up, they can combat the leverage and lead Disney has built and they can compete in terms of quality because many chip in on the same project.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Mitchell Mullvain, 21 Jun 2010 @ 9:07pm

    Who Wins?

    Who gives a care what they say. Go to youtube, and type the ride (not video shows ex: Star Tours, Phillar Magic) in the search engine, even in HD. It's there. hundreds, if not thousands a day. Nearly 1 person a day will film on a popular ride whether for Youtube or personal reasons. Even the unpopular one's get at least one film a week. Some people walk in line, and sit in front of the operator, TALKING to them, with the camera obviously in their hand. No one would sue. Disney wouldn't sue me, because for something that stupid to sue for, don't forget also about what I said up top. Guarantee that it will create a big commotion, big enough that Disney might lose a couple hundred of their average guests each day. So look at it this way, I don't get sued, or I get sued for a million dollars, lose, and watch Disney lose nearly 100 million in revenue. Who won?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    dizzylizzie, 29 Aug 2010 @ 5:52pm

    Re: Re: Let them sue

    Not to be offensive, and I feel that everyone has great opinions to learn from...but I've worked for the corporation since 2007...in menial and not as menial roles off and on...and I've never treated anyone like garbage. Especially with regards to guests and the public, who generally expect more than what they pay for, honestly. I've had to essentially make miracles happen on a daily basis at Walt Disney World, and it never came with a side of bad attitude or money-grubbing demeanor. It's hurtful of you to generalize "Disney World" personnel, when what I feel you might mean is "Higher Disney Officials from the days of Eisner." And if you don't know who that is, you may not know enough of the story to have a strong opinion.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    lrobbo (profile), 27 May 2012 @ 3:29pm

    If only more people knew the truth about Disney, this kind of thing is just the tip of the iceberg . . .

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. icon
    fodder99 (profile), 30 Jun 2012 @ 9:59am

    Disney is just like any other large business, they are only interested in making huge amounts of money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Jacho, 16 Mar 2013 @ 8:13am

    Response to: lrobbo on May 27th, 2012 @ 3:29pm

    And behind the scenes, Mobbing if people decide to not like you. Ive heard that if your coworkers dont like you they work together to make it look like youve done something wrong. I know people who were fired like that. Disney is a smart company, wouldnt their Managers be smart enough to see that? your right about more than meets the eye

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)


Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...

Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.