September 06, 2006

Hey Lawrence Lessig

by PG

My understanding was that the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 protected Disney's trademark on Mickey Mouse, but I'm not clear on whether this is purely for Mickey's image or also for his name. If the latter, if someone uses "Mickey Mouse" as a pejorative adjective in order to attack Disney or its subsidiaries, could Disney sue for unauthorized use of the trademark, or is "Mickey Mouse" now recognized as part of the English language? I've gotten so unmotivated to think about politics lately that the above query is the main reaction I had to an e-mail with the subject line "ABC: Stop 9/11 Mickey Mouse Tale":

Tell ABC to Cancel Their Inaccurate and Slanted Sept. 11th Program
ABC has decided to honor the national memory of Sept. 11th by giving six hours of prime-time coverage to the wildly inaccurate viewpoints of an avowed conservative partisan. Tell them to cancel this show. On September 10th and 11th, ABC is planning to air a "docu-drama" called "Path to 9/11," which is being billed as "an objective telling of the events of 9/11." In fact, the film was written by an unabashed conservative who twists the facts to blame President Clinton. ABC's new six-hour film was apparently screened in advance only to conservative bloggers and journalists -- and received extensive praise from none other than Rush Limbaugh. The film is apparently also riddled with factual errors and distortions; former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke has completely refuted one of the key scenes in the show. It's simply stunning to think that as this fall's election approaches, a major television network would devote six hours of prime-time programming to air such a slanted and inaccurate program.
(I have a liberal knee-jerk against telling anyone to cancel almost any form of speech; supporting more speech as a corrective to bad speech is too deeply ingrained. At most, I'm in favor of civil defamation law that permits a person injured by such claims to receive compensation, which wouldn't work here because anyone mentioned negatively in this film will be a public figure.)

UPDATE: In an odd coincidence (or is it Liberal Media Bias?), NBC informs us that it's actually been under the Bush Administration that the U.S. military has been too touchy-feely sensitive to strike at the Taliban.

September 6, 2006 11:51 AM | TrackBack

Well TM requires likelihood of confusion. But if it said, stop goofing off about Pluto with your Mickey Mouse tales, then it might be a different story. Of course copyright does not extend to short phrases.

This is all discussed thoroughly by The Simpsons in the Itchy and Scratchy copyright case.

Posted by: Armen at September 6, 2006 01:11 PM

Way, way back in the 1940s and '50s certain schlocky business ventures would be referred to as "mickey mouse" operations. So negatives have long been associated with this rodent. The First Amendment trumps copyright claims in this instance; why it's as simple as ABC. Or is that a copyright violation?

Posted by: Shag from Brookline at September 7, 2006 08:14 AM

The irony is that Disney owns ABC.

Posted by: Armen at September 7, 2006 11:47 AM
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