If you ask anybody in the creative industry, they’ll tell you US copyright law is way too strict and goes on for far too long, keeping really old characters and stories out of the public domain for almost a century’s worth of time (95 years is the current rule). And when you ask them where the blame lies, they point straight to Disney.
Disney has successfully lobbied to extend US copyright well past its original intended limit, mainly to keep any part of their icon, Mickey Mouse, from becoming public property — and in the process keeping everything else out of public reach. Their most recent bump happened in 1998, adding an additional 20 years. Congress has expressed no interest in pushing it further lately, but now someone’s interested in actually REVERSING the law.
Don’t get too excited — this is coming from Missouri senator Josh Hawley, one of those politicians with a pale white face who bites his lower lip a lot and says the words “woke ideologies” 10,000 times a day. Why would a guy like that be interested in reining in Big Business? Well, nothing terrifies Josh more than the letters L, B, G, T or Q and nothing makes him angrier than Disney CEO Bob Chapek weakly squeaking “uh, maybe Florida shouldn’t make it illegal to say genderfluid kids exist in school, or something.” It must not stand.
So Josh’s proposed Copyright Clause Restoration Act, if passed, would roll back the law from 95 years to 56, solely to punish Disney. He apparently thinks the Left will be rolling in pain over this, and that it’s NOT what they’ve been demanding for decades now. He must not find out. No one tell him!
Don;’t get your hopes up, though. The bill is largely toothless and probably illegal. While several copyright extensions have been passed, nobody’s pulled off a copyright REDUCTION before. Such an unprecedented move would draw fire from every single film and TV studio in the country, and open up countless lawsuits. The Copyright Clause Restoration Act is a complete waste of time that only exists for political grandstanding on Josh’s part. Sorry.
Bill or no bill, the original black-and-white version of Mickey is still scheduled to fall into public domain on January 1, 2024, and the way things are right now, another extension is unlikely.