This article originally appeared in the 1.10.13 issue of Metroland
Techdirt this week highlights yet another pig move by the
evil empire that is Disney. Yes, the
wonderful world of hypocrisy has reared its ugly head again, this time in
refusing to allow the producers of the new Philip Glass opera about Walt Disney,
The Perfect American,
to utilize any
of the iconic Disney characters in the opera.
The new work is loosely based on a novel written from the perspective of
a fictitious and disgruntled Disney illustrator, and focuses on the last years
of Walt Disney’s life. Apparently the
opera portrays Walt as a right-wing zealot, a racist, anti-Semite, etc., that
is to say not a particularly nice guy, a portrayal which does have some basis in
fact. In any event, the producers asked
to use some of Disney characters (Mickey, Goofy, etc. etc.) in the production
and Disney said no.
to the UK paper The Guardian
approval had previously been sought for the entire production; the producers submitted the libretto and
interpreted Disney’s silence as a green light. Which strikes me as weird. Composer Glass reportedly was initially fearful
to take on the project, afraid he’d get chewed up by the Disney legal
What everyone is worried about is the fact that Disney is
among the world’s biggest intellectual property bullies. Disney repeatedly uses the law and the
courts, or the threat of the courts, to bring questionable, if not downright
laughable, claims against those who dare to make fun of, have fun with, or to creatively reuse it’s “properties,” or
even, as here, to comment
“properties.” And virtually every one of
Disney’s victims is a LOT smaller than Disney and simply can’t afford a
withering legal broadside, even if there’s nothing of substance behind it.
going on here? My first question is why
did the producers of The Perfect American
think they needed Disney’s approval for any
aspect of the production?
If we’re talking about copyright, isn’t this a classic case of fair
use? The opera, which not surprisingly
is described as “surreal,” comments on Walt Disney and his dynasty by contrasting
Disneycorp’s finely-cultivated image as a purveyor of childhood joy with Walt’s
real or imagined douchebaggery. Wouldn’t
the creative use of some of Disney’s more iconic characters in this context be
“transformative”? Yes? Would this act as a market replacement for
the original characters? Of course not. Boink!
we’re talking about trademark law, no one except the legendary “moron in a
hurry” would think for a second that the opera was created by or even endorsed
by Disneycorp. No confusion, no
And to think that Glass was afraid even to broach the
. Given that, is it likely he pulled some creative punches?
suffers here, who loses? We do. Intellectual property laws are supposed to be
for the good of society in general, and Disney uses these laws as a big stick for
the sole good of its corporate shareholders, while suppressing the speech and
creativity and freedom of the rest of us.
And that’s plain disgusting.
on. The wonderfully nuts music blogger
Bob Lefsetz went on one of his tirades this week, going directly at a
topic we’ve danced around with here a couple of times: the death of the music
album. Face it, the “album” as a cogent pop
music art form only existed for about 10 years, starting in 1967 with Sgt.
, and largely dying with the
ascendancy of punk and new wave, both entirely singles-oriented genres. The introduction of the CD in the mid-‘80’s
only brought focus to the absurdity, as pop music artists struggled to come up
with 75 minutes of music, for no other reason than there were 75 minutes to
fill on a CD. And with the widespread acceptance
of MP3s and streaming services, the return to a singles-based world was complete.
artists especially, the resources and time necessary to record a consistent
full album can be daunting. And to what
end? It strikes me that albums continue to be made only because of inertia, ego, and ignorance.
Fans and potential fans want to hear a song
, not ten. On their phones and on shuffle-play. Does
sit down and listen to a pop
music album start to finish anymore? Are
pop music albums even meant to be listened to start to finish? Nope.
So the “album cycle,” with an act recording an album, touring, coming
home and recording another album, is functionally dead, or will be very soon.
think you’ve got the
song, don’t sit
on it while you try to spit-shine 10-12 more you don’t really believe in. Get the sucker out there. NOW.
Paul Rapp is an IP
lawyer in the Bershires who can dance as well as he can walk.