by Glyn Moody

Filed Under:
copyright, opera, philip glass, speech


Opera About Walt Disney Refused Permission To Use Disney Images

from the don't-do-as-you-would-be-done-by dept

Techdirt has noted before the hypocrisy of Disney in refusing to allow others to draw on its creativity in the same way that it has drawn on the art and ideas of the past. Here's another example, but this time it's an opera that's had difficulties:

A British-designed and directed opera about Walt Disney which premieres in Spain this month before coming to London has been forced to tell the great cartoonist's story without any of the images of the characters that made him a household name. Minnie, Donald, Pluto and Goofy, not to mention Mickey Mouse himself, will not be appearing on stage with the singers.

The Perfect American, the latest work by the acclaimed composer Philip Glass, concentrates on the last years of Disney's life, when he lay dying of lung cancer while planning to have his body frozen. It portrays Disney as a megalomaniac with McCarthyite, racist and misogynist tendencies, so it is clear why the global entertainment corporation has denied rights.
Rather weirdly (sour grapes?), the artistic director of the English National Opera, which will perform the opera in London, says that "we would probably not have used the real Disney characters in the production even if we had been allowed to," so in practice Disney's refusal hasn't turned out to be a big problem. But there's still an interesting issue here.

As Techdirt has discussed before, the famous "Mickey Mouse Curve" shows how copyright extensions always seem to come through just as Mickey Mouse is about to enter the public domain. So it's not entirely impossible that Disney will be pushing for yet another extension fairly soon, and for more after that.

What that means in practice is that creators of works like the Philip Glass opera presenting Walt Disney in a less than totally flattering light are likely to find themselves unable to use any of the iconic Disney images beyond what is permitted by fair use. And so a crucial facet of modern culture will not be available for artists to build upon as they wish for the foreseeable future -- hardly how the copyright bargain of a time-limited government-enforced monopoly in exchange for releasing works into the public domain is supposed to work.

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  1. icon
    Ninja (profile), 8 Jan 2013 @ 5:21am

    Everybody sees the irony in Disney preventing stuff from going into public domain but relying heavily on it to sustain its own empire and yet they STILL manage to bend the laws in their favor. Well, in an age where hypocrisy and lack of shame seem to be the norm it's not surprising anymore.

    It is clear, however, that newer generations might not be as exposed to Disney content as they would with a more open (or cheaper) environment. In the long term it's plain simple suicide.

    I a side note, I never bothered to research about Walt Disney. Is this opera piece faithful to the truth or is it just some joke?

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