Disney was the dominant political force behind the Mickey Mouse Protection Act of 1998, citing not fear for the company’s continued profit-making–dependent on the gamble of continued innovation and creativity–but instead hiding behind a mask of defending “property rights.” It should come as no surprise, then, that Disney cannot even manage to practice what it preaches. According to Reuters, “South African lawyers are suing U.S. entertainment giant Walt Disney Co for infringement of copyright on ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight,’ the most popular song to emerge from Africa, the lawyers said on Friday.” There should be no doubt now that Disney–and others in favor of extended IP–are motivated solely by corporate greed. -FreeCulture.org

Do you believe if the original authors of Cinderella (Tuan Ch’eng-shih 850-60), Beauty and the Beast (Gianfranceso Straparola 1550-53), Pinocchio (C. Collodi 1881), and Snow White (Brothers Grimm, 1819) had copyright laws “protecting” their work Disney would even exist? Of course not, even those authors borrowed from ancient folklore to amass those stories. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be! Artists gain inspiration from many sources. Other artwork is a main reserve that should continue to be at an artist’s disposal. How else would the art-world flourish as it has in the past without access to that history?

The origin of copyright is not the bastardized version the RIAA or Disney celebrates today. Protection of intellectual work dates back to 1710 with the Statute of Anne.

Whereas Printers, Booksellers, and other Persons, have of late frequently taken the Liberty of Printing, Reprinting, and Publishing, or causing to be Printed, Reprinted, and Published Books, and other Writings, without the Consent of the Authors or Proprietors of such Books and Writings, to their very great Detriment, and too often to the Ruin of them and their Families: For Preventing therefore such Practices for the future, and for the Encouragement of Learned Men to Compose and Write useful Books. . .

This statute was clearly trying to protect an author’s work from being stolen by publishers. Quite a different coin than our current situation. . . I’d like to point your attention to the last line of the Statute, “for the Encouragement of Learned Men to Compose and Write useful Books.” The heart of this line lays in the encouragement of the art community not the discouragement. I mean, would you have confidence as an author if you knew once a printer got hold of your work it would be mass produced without your consent or any profit? Or, what confidence would you have as an artist if you could barely make $.50 on a $16.98 sale?

It looks to me like the novel idea to protect artists has gone an entirely dissimilar route, don’t you think?

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