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Disney Warns Against 'Overzealous Copyright Holders', Not Talking About Self

Posted by: , 18:01 UTC, Tue August 21, 2018

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Disney fire off irony-laden response to lawsuit that claims the studio is a hypocrite when it comes to respecting copyright
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A copyright dispute involving Disney and the late Michael Jackson's estate has devolved into claims of hypocrisy with a heavy sprinkling of irony added for flavor.

The lawsuit centers around the airing of a program titled 'The Last Days of Michael Jackson' on the Disney owned ABC network earlier this year. The Michael Jackson Estate is suing Disney because it claims Disney owned ABC did not acquire the rights to music and footage used in the 2-hour news feature. 

Disney is defending their actions by claiming freedom of speech protection under the First Amendment; the ability of news organisation to use excerpts for reporting purposes; and most interestingly of all, the fair use doctrine under copyright law.

Disney, like most other major media companies, have come out in the past strongly against fair use, seeing it as something that weakens existing copyright protection and creates uncertainty in the market.

Disney's response to the lawsuit also has this particularly interesting passage.

"This case is about the right of free speech under the First Amendment, the doctrine of fair use under the Copyright Act, and the ability of news organizations to use limited excerpts of copyrighted works—here, in most instances well less than 1% of the works—for the purpose of reporting on, commenting on, teaching about, and criticizing well-known public figures of interest in biographical documentaries without fear of liability from overzealous copyright holders," Disney wrote.

It's the last part of this paragraph, in particular, that has left critics in amazement due to the irony of the above statement linked with the company in question. It also left the Jackson Estate with plenty of ammunition to fire at Disney for its hypocrisy in the matter, citing several examples of overzealous copyright pursuit by the Mickey Mouse company.

One example refers to a Disney lawsuit against a childcare center for having pictures of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck on their walls. Another lawsuit saw Disney file a million dollar lawsuit against a couple on public assistance for attending children's parties dressed as a generic orange tiger and a blue donkey (too close to Disney owned Winnie the Pooh characters Tigger and Eeyore). Even Star Wars fans faced Disney's wrath for daring to post photos of their legally bought Star Wars toys on Twitter and Facebook.

The Jackson Estate did not mince words in calling Disney hypocrites on the matter.

"Like Disney, the lifeblood of the Estate’s business is its intellectual property. Yet for some reason, Disney decided it could just use the Estate’s most valuable intellectual property for free. Apparently, Disney’s passion for the copyright laws disappears when it doesn’t involve its own intellectual property and it sees an opportunity to profit off of someone else’s intellectual property without permission or payment," the complaint read.

The Jackson Estate claims at least thirty different copyright works were used without permission in the ABC news documentary.

[via Techdirt]


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