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Mickey Mouse and Batman will soon be public domain (arstechnica.com)
727 points by Tomte 76 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 307 comments

>On January 1, 2024, we'll see the expiration of the copyright for Steamboat Willie—and with it Disney's claim to the film's star, Mickey Mouse. The copyrights to Superman, Batman, Disney's Snow White, and early Looney Tunes characters will all fall into the public domain between 2031 and 2035.

I guess 5-16 years counts as soon these days?

In the current insane copyright system? That's absolutely soon.

Anything is sooner than never, which is what it looked like for a long time.

Soon relative to the never it was looking like a few years ago.

If you consider the time needed to pass the legislation necessary to prevent this, then yes.

Why? It takes one session or less for Congress to pass a pre-written law that updates some numbers in existing law, as has been repeatedly done over decades.

Exactly. Disney just needs to call in the "favors" they are owed from the Congressman they supported during the elections. Maybe sprinkle in a media campaign to fear-monger the fact that "Disney might lose Mickey" as an insurance policy.

The trademark for Mickey Mouse, etc. will still be very much alive though. Resell Steamboat Willie as a full work as you will, but use Mickey for anything else? Good luck against Disney's legal team.

It's before you will die so... Yes it's a clickbate for anybody who is not a lawyer and did not already knew that. But hey it's entertainment news that are not tragedy porn... Yes NY resolution was to be more positive...

I guess soon we'll be able to retire the old Slashdot rule:

> In the USA Copyright lengths are very simple. Anything older than Mickey Mouse is public domain and everything else is still copyrighted.

(via https://m.slashdot.org/thread/28736323)

2024 is still a few years away... maybe too soon to count those chickens since they haven't hatched?

Let's change that to hope. You think Disney is not going to try another copyright law revision?

Pedantically, that rule of thumb is actually getting more true right now: Mickey Mouse is still under copyright but the small set of older things that are actually still under copyright is shrinking.

This article is making a big legal mistake I think... You should be free to make a Mickey Mouse doll with modern colors and white gloves after Steamboat Willie enters the public domain because those would be derivative works (of the original). The colors of the character's clothes can certainly be trademarked but after the initial copyright expires any and all color combinations should be fair game (legally speaking).

If this were not the case the entire body of case law on derivative works would be turned on its head. The entire point of derivative works law is that there's an original that everything else is based on. If the original is public domain any variation thereof is also public domain from that point forward except for exact replicas.

Meaning: You can produce all the Mickey Mouse stuff you want as long as you're not literally copying something that's still under copyright. Mickey Mouse dolls are fine as long as your artwork wasn't literally copied & pasted.

There's copyright law and trademark law. Copyright law might be ok with something but trademark law might ban it. The ban takes precedence.

I was thinking the same thing re: derivative works. Ordinarily a claim could be made if you took a copyrighted work and created derivative material from it (someone sampling your hook in a new song), but what if you start from a public domain work, and add your own changes? It seems your changes only would be copyrighted. But can you copyright obvious colors? If you took B&W, public domain Mickey and had some preschoolers or an AI or something color it in... would this be yours?

What Disney should worry about if they plan to defend their colored Mickey is a team of hacktivists creating derivative colored works from the original pd B&W image and claiming copyright on THAT for another 100 years :)

You can only copyright works of creativity. Changing someones shirt color to non-specific non-interesting shade of red would be a challenging claim to defend.

What if i make, market and sell (in 2024) a doll with just a pixel (or point) of a different colour (assume green on red pants) and argue that point of green showcase a different mickey, with eco friendly thoughts ? Every thing else would be very similar

Judges aren't computers and won't be fooled by that. They are humans who are very familiar with humans attempting to deceive.

Your intent to mislead is obvious and I don't think it would hold up in court at all. But IANAL and copyright laws are different from country to country.

It will end exactly as well as the people that tried to claim MP3 encodings of music are "psycho-acoustic simulations" of the original and thus not subject to the copyright.


A judge will be annoyed and/or amused. You will lose a lawsuit. It will be expensive.

You're ignoring all the copyrighted movies Disney made based off of public domain works. Good luck just "deriving" off of those too much. With your Steamboat Willie argument, derivative work would have to be based off him, not from works based off him (ie Mickey Mouse).

Are you a lawyer?

I'm not but I work with lots, and that's not how derivative works are interpreted.

You may think it's right and the logic is sound, but there are good arguments the other way too, and that is how courts have found.

But would the burden of proof be on the producer or the claimant?

Also: I don't want to test if Disney's lawyers can bankrupt my small toyshop just by drawing out the legal process.

<< The same legal issues will arise when other iconic characters... Winnie the Pooh, and so forth—fall into the public domain >>

Psst! Winnie the Pooh is already in the public domain! q.v. A.A. Milne.

It's the cultural gravity-well of disnified Pooh Bear that triggers my teeth-gnashing irrational hatred of Disney, more even than the unconscionable copyright shenanigans or treacle blanching of global culture or 'get-em while their young' marketing tactics. I quietly toss any Disney materiel that manages to appear in my 3 y.o.'s life, and replace it with original sources.

We recently listed to the dramatized audio book[1] with the family. It was worlds better than any Disney movie version of the story. The original Milne text plus the all-star British voice actors made it truly enjoyable.

Hallo, Eeyore.

Same to you, Pooh Bear, and twice on Thursdays.

[1] https://www.audible.com/pd/Winnie-the-Pooh-Dramatised-Audiob...

You have found a kindred spirit here on HN.

In my family A. A. Milne is promoted to a status tantamount to religious text. Disney's treatment is sacriligous and feeds a very similar hatred. I think it's the juxtaposition of the epitome of innocence (albeit heavily rose-tinted) with such a cynical, nasty organisation.

And all the more upsetting that the Disney version is probably all anyone ever knows.

Hands off.

Having had worked for Disney in Orlando I sometimes feel the same. I just don't get it, they're not bad movies, but it scares me to see just how attached people get to Disney. Now that they own Star Wars and Marvel I've lost interest in both just because I knew once they took Star Wars they would milk that cow as much as possible. I am still kinda mad they took away the awesome game studio. They really could of made amazing games, instead we've got EA making Star Wars games.

I agree that people can get pretty tied to Disney and have seen it, but why does that impact your love for the things they own at all? People were fanatic about Star Wars before, but if Fox had put the same marketing power behind it as Disney does, would you felt the same? Or Marvel - had the parts of the MCU that Sony owns been bigger, would you like Spider-Man any less?

I wasn't as big into Star Wars or Marvel before the buy out, so now I'm less likely to be, except Deadpool, now I feel like it's going to be beaten to death by Disney.

Aren't there trademarks involved? The original stories would be public domain, but I'm not sure how easy it'd be to market them without Disney/DC's permission.

There's also the fact that copyright over characters is tied to their first appearance, and (especially in Batman's case), most other recognisable characters from the series aren't public domain. So you could write a Batman story, but it couldn't involve Robin, or the Joker, or hell, any of Batman's familiar rogues gallery.

But it's nice to see this about to happen none the less.

That’s not how this works. The actual books/movies/cartoons that Batman appears in will eventually be public domain — you’ll be legally allowed to copy, edit and distribute these without restrictions. However, “Batman” (the idea, the concept) is still protected by trademark laws making it illegal to produce new (non-derivative) Batman books/movies/cartoons without the trademark holder’s consent.

> “Batman” (the idea, the concept) is still protected by trademark laws making it illegal to produce new (non-derivative) Batman books/movies/cartoons without the trademark holder’s consent

This isn't true. The concept of Batman as it existed in the comics that are in the public domain is open to being remixed and put into new stories and derivative works. Even with the name "Batman" and even without giving any credit to DC comics whatsoever.

What the Batman trademarks are able to prevent is someone trying to use the Batman name to confuse consumers into thinking some product is being sold by DC comics.

As the article points out, the exact borders of what trademark can be used for in terms of merch is fuzzy, but a specific strategy that doesn't work is using a trademarked name to prevent creation of copies or derivative works of something in the public domain

When creating new works with Batman, you'll have to fastidiously avoid using any elements of the character that were introduced later, but you should be good.

> When creating new works with Batman, you'll have to fastidiously avoid using any elements of the character that were introduced later, but you should be good.

Everything in your comments makes sense except this part. If this goes as currently planned Batman will be in the public domain, but not e.g. Batwoman (introduced decades later).

However, I can make my own new superhero now called Foobarman and introduce a Foobarwoman without anyone having grounds for saying I'm ripping off Batman.

So if Batman is in the public domain I'll be able to have a Batwoman. Having a female version of a character isn't per-se a copyright violation just because that path's been taken before.

Of course if I go further and actually rip off entire stories involving Batwoman I'll be in trouble.

> if Batman is in the public domain I'll be able to have a Batwoman. Having a female version of a character isn't per-se a copyright violation just because that path's been taken before.

I think you're making a legal argument, and I have no idea if your interpretation is what the court has already decided/will decide.

IANAL (only been following IP law for a long time), but if your Foobarwoman is still substantially similar to Batwoman, you're gonna have problems. Sure, there could be some kind of female companion to Batman in your new series enabled by Batman being in the public domain, but they'll have to look different and have some kind of different story line than the Batwoman currently in the DC canon.

> "Batman” (the idea, the concept) is still protected by trademark laws

Trademarks very explicitly do not protect concepts or ideas like you claim. Trademark only grants a monopoly on some limited and well-defined identifying design, such as a logo or brand name.

Trademark is actually more narrow than that. It is a "logo or brand name" used in the identification of the source of a good:


What Is a Trademark or Service Mark and How Do They Differ From Patents and Copyrights?

A trademark is a brand name. A trademark or service mark includes any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used or intended to be used to identify and distinguish the goods/services of one seller or provider from those of others, and to indicate the source of the goods/services.

But, as the article mentioned, you can still sell merchandise of Batman with original design after 2024. Meaning the idea of Batman is not protected only the "implementation" of those ideas that are still within copyright period will be restricted. So you should be able to make Sherlock and Batman movie if you want.

>Sherlock and Batman

Sounds awesome.

Ish. Batman is basically an “action Sherlock” already. You would have to significantly tweak one or the other to make it interesting. But yeah, having the freedom to do that in a professional production would be pretty fun.

"Batman: consulting detective"

That seems like it could be a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies-style remix, with a few Sherlock Holmes stories rewritten to feature Batman instead and then packaged as a book.

The intersection between the public domain and trademarks is pretty interesting.

For example, Marvel Comics recently paid to re-obtain the rights to publish Conan comic books, even though the character and original stories are in the public domain. This result is perverse, in my opinion.

I don't know your country's law but trademark is just the trademark. Trademark holder can't stop people from using the trademark word. They can stop calling the fake thing as the trademark word because it's not the thing trademark word refer to.

If it is indeed the Mickey Mouse from Steamboat Willie, then it's the Mickey Mouse.

I'm not sure how you could create a Batman or Mickey Mouse product without confusing the consumer and isn't that the test?

Wouldn't a prominent "I don't have anything to do with Disney" do it?

Steamboat willing entering the public domain would not allow you to create the movie "Mickey Mouse joins the Pirate Party"

But I believe you could make "Mouseman Joins The Pirate Party" and use drawings based on (or directly lifted from) Steamboat Willy itself, no?

If you lift the images of the strange mouse/person hybrid directly from Steamboat Willy, I would expect that to be legal. But I'm not sure if you could draw your own or not, could Disney have a trademark on the general likeness of the mouse man? I couldn't say. That said, parody/fair use would probably cover your ass for that in practice.

See https://fairuse.stanford.edu/case/klinger-v-conan-doyle-esta...

I would expect drawings based solely on thr Steamboat Willy work to be okay. The sequels start new timers on new characters or qualities, they don't extend the copyright on the original work. of course, IANAL.

Maybe explicit branding differentiation, in the style of "Disney's ____" already used to make for distinct branding from other public domain retelling. "Marvel's Superman", that kind of thing.

Most modern Batman stories don't seem to contain Robin or joker.

I'm going to assume you mean "movies" because the comics are still rife with those characters.

If a cartoon character is still in commercial use and being further developed, I'm not sure if it's good practice to turn it into public domain. I don't think there had been corporations/artists that have had the longevity of Disney, and the fact that Disney has continued to invest in and develop the characters over the years makes this somewhat of a special case (compared to other literature characters where the author stops developing them after they are published).

I'm no copyright lawyer nor do I know much about copyright laws, but one should recognise the positive effects of copyright protection, which encourages innovation and investment. Those incremental investments Disney has made should be acknowledged.

But of course, the danger in this argument is that in the future someone can just make tiny face-value 'investments' into their copyright to argue for an extension, that would be detrimental to the whole copyright vs innovation balance.

> If a cartoon character is still in commercial use and being further developed, I'm not sure if it's good practice to turn it into public domain.

Disney doesn't have any issues defending its repackaged public domain products like fairy tales. I don't see why Mickey Mouse would be harder to brand and market than the Disney princesses.

At this point he's probably a trademark. Everything by Disney uses Mickey Mouse badges or iconography to identify itself as Disney.

IANAL, but the Mouse Ears logo is different than the character himself. Fewer things are branded with Mickey's face.

I feel like the distinction between copyright (with term limits, but strong protections) and trademark (with no term limits, but strong weaknesses) should be enough for a company like Disney. Maybe there should be some sort of "franchise copyright" somewhere in between the two, but I've never heard a good specific idea to that.

However, I heard one proposed idea that prolonged copyright extensions (or variable copyright terms, if you'd prefer) might make sense as a corporate property tax that increases over time after the baseline expiration (and better if you reset the baseline to something smaller again).

That would at least trigger bottom line decisions in corporations if keeping something in copyright (and out of the public domain) is worth the annual property taxes on it. Some of that tax could go directly to archival/preservation efforts for those properties in the proper spirit of insuring their legacy for the public domain, eventually. Most of that tax would indirectly go towards discouraging companies from IP "tenements" where rent is collected (subscription/access charges), but innovation/investment diminished a long time ago. (Mickey has new cartoons on YouTube every so often, but how many properties does Disney own that other than maybe a bare conversion to Netflix or soon Disney+ streaming they haven't done anything with in decades?)

I like this idea for its simplicity, a commercial problem with negative externality to the public can generally be solved with taxation.

Perpetual copyright does the opposite of encouraging innovation. Consider how many of the highest grossing movies are made up of endless sequels and reboots of existing franchises vs how many are new.

I'm sure you're right that it encourages investment, but I don't think that the commoditization of culture makes it more innovative or better (for my subjective definition of better).

Maybe a reasonable approach would be a short default copyright time with the option to renew it every 5-10 years for a big sum of money.

This will prevent copyright squatters on works with high value for public but lesser monetary value, like WWII footage just collecting dust as mentioned in the article.

> cartoon character is still in commercial use and being further developed

I feel this should be restricted to the originator of the work itself.

A property can wait till the primary author is done with the work (inside reasonable intervals..sorry GRR martin), before starting the timer of it entering public domain.

However, works like Batman and Mickey that get tossed between committees and multiple authors, should not be viewed in the same way.

It´s copyrighted for the author´s lifetime, so the primary author will have no problem, and what you say was the original intent.

It´s how many years after death that is the problem.

Steamboat Willy was 1928. In 1998 when the latest copyright changes were made it was 70 years old when copyright was extended from 75 years to 95 years. So frankly it's not unrealistic to say we're no closer to Mickey Mouse being out of copyright than we were in 1998.

Is there legislation pending to alter the copyright term again? If not, then we are indeed closer.

Yeah, and it's better than that actually, in that the RIAA specifically said they weren't even pursuing the idea last year.

I'd be so excited if Superman ever entered the public domain. Then I'm convinced we'd get much better adaptations than the drivel we've been seeing for the last several years.

> I'd be so excited if Superman ever entered the public domain. Then I'm convinced we'd get much better adaptations than the drivel we've been seeing for the last several years.

Individual works are entering the public domain, but what you’re proposing is much trickier and largely unsettled legal territory.

When early Superman stories enter the public domain there’s no legal guarantee that courts will agree that this includes the right to tell new stories with the character. Further it almost certainly DOESN’T include the right to tell stories about the characters using elements that come from later, still-under-copyright works — and much of what we think of as Superman’s mythos comes not from the early comics but from the 1940s radio show (flight rather than big jumps, The Daily Planet, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, kryptonite, “look, up in the sky...”), or from silver age comics of the 50s and 60s (Braniac, Bizaro, Zod, most of the characteristics of the arctic fortress of solitude, vision powers, breath powers, kandor...).

It’ll be decades before a recognizable Superman mythos is public domain.

What about "Superman" as a trademark? I assume it's already fine to make characters with Superman-like powers but with another name.

> I assume it's already fine to make characters with Superman-like powers but with another name

You may want to take a look at the outcome of National Comics Publications, Inc. v. Fawcett Publications, Inc. https://bit.ly/2CHZt0i the courts have and will slap down clearly “ersatz Superman” characters.

edit: had to use a URL shortener because HN keeps mangling the Wikipedia URL


(HN removes the last ".", adding another makes the url work :-)

Ah, thanks! I couldn't figure out how to get it to stop eating that

Interesting. It makes it mysterious to me at which point a mere collection of "facts" about a fictional character turns into a copyrightable depiction.

> It makes it mysterious to me at which point a mere collection of "facts" about a fictional character turns into a copyrightable depiction.

The decision by Hand in National is widely considered to be extremely clear and readable, if you're really curious.

It's important to understand that while mere collections of facts are not copyrightable, nothing about fiction is factual -- you can't defend Captain Marvel on the basis of "we're merely reporting the facts about his powers, which happen to mirror facts about someone elses'" because those powers aren't facts at all but represent conscious creative decisions on the part of Fawcett Comics. When all of your creative decisions are tuned to mirroring the creative decisions of another copyrighted work, you're in pretty well-defined copyright violation territory.

Then you'll be happy to know he's already there.


Not according to the OP - is this something else?

> The copyrights to Superman, Batman, Disney's Snow White, and early Looney Tunes characters will all fall into the public domain between 2031 and 2035.

That’s describing the situation in the US. Elsewhere the 1940s movies are already public domain.

Then how come we haven't seen anything of substance/value?

Because these movies being public domain just means these specific movies are public domain, nothing more. You can recut and remix them, if you wish.

You can’t do whatever you want with the character of Superman and the many elements of his stories that exist outside these works, however.

> You can’t do whatever you want with the character of Superman

Yes you can.

Superman is such a basic character that you can absolutely make stories about him without actually copying the character. Also, it's desirable to have your own character that you can merchandise exclusively. As an example, the Japanese manga/anime "One Punch Man" is a work that takes the very basic premise of an unbeatable super-man and goes interesting places with it.

Ask yourself, does the world really need more Superman?

This sounds like something that isn’t going to happen unless senators actually get reminded that this is a thing people care about. Has Ron Wyden (D-OR) indicated that he knows that he might have to fight to keep public domain day from being postponed again?

Has anyone written to their representatives about this? Are we going to be proactive or are we waiting to organize a defense of the public domain until after a bill to attack it has passed the House?

>And assuming Congress doesn't interfere, more works will fall into the public domain each January from now on.

>On January 1, 2024, we'll see the expiration of the copyright for Steamboat Willie—and with it Disney's claim to the film's star, Mickey Mouse. The copyrights to Superman, Batman, Disney's Snow White, and early Looney Tunes characters will all fall into the public domain between 2031 and 2035.

Given this list, I don’t see Disney, Warner Brothers, and DC comics all sitting idly by. If I was a betting person, I would bet that Snow White will not enter the public domain on the 2030’s.

Isn't Snow White (as in the fairy tale) centuries out of copyright? Disney's specific version will still be protected by trademark, so at best one gains the right to host the Disney footage online in 2030.

Apparently Disney's names for the dwarfs, other than Sneezy, are copyright. So pantomimes regularly turn up with a slightly different array of dwarfs. (And different songs, of course)

I dunno. They'll still have the TM and copyrights on later works with the characters. And there's already plenty of unlicensed Mickey et. al. stuff out there even with the copyright. I doubt this is really that threatening to their bottom line. (plus in the case of Disney, they probably have more IP then they can effectively market anyways, if Snow White goes public, they'll still have like two dozen similar princess characters they can push)

On the other hand, picking a fight over the issue risks a public backlash that might go the other way and weaken existing copyright law in a way that really would hurt them.

So I'd bet Snow White will enter the public domain.

I'm not an expert, but I'd think Snow White would be one of the most likely, as it's not really a cash cow these days. In fact it might backfire if they tried to push it in the modern climate.

Old movies, cartoons and comic books are not commercially attractive enough to keep fighting for those originals. Disney can make new Snow White and make hundreds of millions on this release, so what's the point in costly lobbying for a fraction of that revenue?

I think major beneficiary would be the cloners and fake product manufacturers in China. You can expect thousands of questionable quality but very cheap toys with Mickey Mouse theme getting dumped on to Amazon.

Don't confuse copyright with trademarks.

Mickey Mouse is still trademarked. The movies and books are copyrighted.

Also where have you been for the last hundred years where knock-off Disney everything has been the norm?

> I think major beneficiary would be the cloners and fake product manufacturers in China.

I like how you assume that current US laws have deterred them from doing so thus far (hint: they don't, not even close)

I'm curious how long the legal charade of IP can last before people realise how unworkable and detached from reality the concept is.

It's not about "people" or "reality", it's about filling already fat copyright holders' bellies with more caviar, nothing more. The Wall has already been built, no need to be outraged now.

can someone explain? i was under the understanding that it's the works that are under copyright and will be what enters the public domain and not the mickey mouse character as a whole. so people can go off and remix steamboat willie and the mickey mouse representation found there, but it isn't like another company can suddenly take the mickey mouse character and start using it in a broader sense. is that not correct?

When Steamboat Willie enters the public domain, those aspects of the Mickey Mouse character that are in that film will also be in the public domain, so people will be able to use the Mickey Mouse character, as long as they don't use aspects of the character that were introduced in later (and so still copyright) works.

Something similar happened a few years ago with Sherlock Holmes [1]. The original Sherlock Holmes stories are public domain, and so the character can be used without the permission of the Conan Doyle estate. However, some of the later stories are still under copyright, so anything about the character which only appears in these later stories cannot be freely used.

[1] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/sherlock-holmes-no...

There was a great list on BoingBoing recently of works entering the public domain this year:


Also a rather sadder list following it of works that won't be (yet) because of the copyright extension.

When that time comes I think it will be a good litmus test of where we stand in terms of corporations and the rule of law. I would be surprised if Disney didn't already have an army of lawyers, lobbyists, and fixers working on this.

This is what I don't understand. To me, it seems a bit more complicated to me than a simple 'copyright expiration'.

As far as I understand copyright, it stops anyone copying the exact same original image/music/video.

Derivative works have always been allowed, but it's generally a Trademark that stops the derivative works dead in their tracks, as far as I understand. Also, is there a statute of limitations on Trademark? ie Can Disney keep up their TM on Mickey, stopping anyone else from using it?

So all I think this really means is that the original videos are now in the public domain.

> Derivative works have always been allowed

Other way round - copyright has always covered derivative works, that's how the GPL operates. And why you need to clear every sample you use in a music track.

I've never understood why I see so many posters on HN (and in other tech-related circles) who seem to think derivative works have no legal encumbrances.

Probably just taking for granted (understandably so) the fact that so much of what we develop with has extremely flexible/forgiving licensing

Not every sample, just samples over a particular length.

What length? Best reference I can find is that Produce Records Ltd vs BMG Entertainment Ltd (1999) found a 7.5s sample to be infringing, but that result is only binding in the UK.

To an extent. There are protections for fair-use.

That's what I meant: Derivative works have been allowed under copyright laws within the boundaries of Fair Use.

It's clear that's what you mean. But derivative works are covered under the copyright of the original. Not just exact versions.

That's why I can't go out and record a cover version of a Beatles song without paying to license it. It would be a derivative work, and not covered under fair use. Weird Al probably can, though, because parody is fair use.

Weird Al could claim parody fair use for a few tracks like Smells Like Nirvana which are actually parodying the thing used, but (a) that only covers a handful of his works and more importantly (b) he never does this for recordings, fair use is an affirmative defence. You have to wait until you get sued, then raise it and maybe if you have good lawyers that works. Even for Weird Al that's not a fun risk.

For something like, say, Amish Paradise or Tacky the new work is not a parody of the work it derives from, it had nothing to say about that work except "Ha, this is funny if you change the words". So it would probably never be fair use.

Instead Weird Al gets legal OK to use the work. Yes, all those artists, or their labels actually think Weird Al is funny, or at least they'll take the money.

Yes, you are indeed correct. It means the original videos can be posted on YouTube and Disney can't request them be taken down. It doesn't mean you or I can take the Mickey Mouse character and make our own Mickey Mouse cartoons.

Edit: To add a trademark is valid as long as it's in use.

No. This is not true. Derivative works are a thing. If that were true Disney would never have been able to make their derivatives of Pinocchio or Snow White.

After Steamboat Willie expires you bloody damned well can make your own Mickey Mouse cartoon, comics, dolls, or whatever as long as you're not claiming to be Disney or using an exact copy of one of their later derivatives.

Derivative works of expired copyrights, yes. Disney doesn't own the plot to Snow White and never has because the Snow White story is in the public domain. Movies in the public domain can be reproduced in full or in part (as you mention, an exact copy) and the plot/storylines can be copied but Disney has a solid trademark claim on their characters. And that trademark claim continues indefinitely so long as Disney continues to use those characters in the marketplace.

If you make a cartoon using Mickey Mouse will reasonable consumers falsely attribute that cartoon to Disney? Yes. That cartoon would likely cause confusion in the market place. Mickey Mouse is inextricably linked to Disney in the consumer's mind. You cannot use the Mickey Mouse character even if you never claim to be Disney. Further, I would argue that you cannot use the character even if you explicitly state you are not Disney because Disney's primary consumers are children and even with a disclaimer the mere use of the mark would likely cause consumer confusion.

Further, I would argue that you cannot use the character even if you explicitly state you are not Disney because Disney's primary consumers are children and even with a disclaimer the mere use of the mark would likely cause consumer confusion.

Ahh, but were I opposing counsel I would argue that the children young enough to be unable to read and comprehend the clear disclaimer that this is not a Disney production are also too young to have made the purchasing decision and therefore cannot be considered a market participant / consumer.

I would welcome you as opposing counsel because I would mop the floor with you. It's well-established that children can be and are consumers. In fact, both the FTC and CPSC have special regulations applicable to advertising and products for consumers under the age 12.

Could you be convinced to take over for opposing counsel on my current docket? I would be most appreciative.

We're not talking about under age 12 here though, we're talking about under age 5. And furthermore it is not convincing unless you find a precedent involving toddlers as consumers specifically in a trademark / passing-off case.

Doesn't "Steamboat Willie" predate even the 'Mickey Mouse' name, anyway? I think it would be quite feasible to make a derivative work of SW that still had so many deliberate changes compared to what people associate with the present-day Mickey Mouse trademark, that no one, not even a young child, would be expected to conflate the work with Disney's products. This is one thing that would not be possible if SW failed to enter the public domain. Of course, things would become more interesting-- and perhaps more challenging-- as later stuff started entering the public domain as well; just as with "Sherlock Holmes", many features of Mickey's character were slowly accreted over time.

It certainly doesn’t mean they can’t request that it be taken down (there are plenty of examples of companies requesting take downs for things they don’t have the copyright to, or infringed on the copyright themselves, only to turn around and request take down). It also doesn’t prevent deals between Disney and YouTube to prevent public domain works which Disney doesn’t want uploaded from being taken down (e.g. the first sale doctrine allows me to sell DVDs I own, but Amazon restricts DVD selling to only sellers with distribution/wholesaling agreements).

Pedantic. They can't use the force of law to remove the videos. But you knew exactly what I meant.

So we might see Steamboat Willie knock off videos coming soon?

This is where I think we need a common video stamping agreement- something like taking key frames in a video and hashing them, then signing the hash, and storing that in the metadata - I can rerun the check and so be sure that the certificate signing the hash is disney - if not just do not run the video.

I know this sounds like EU central copyright database thing but if we have to have some copyright (which I think we do) we then need a automated way to verify which is some form of database (decentralised for preference)

If you want to be sure that you're watching the Disney original, just look for the video that says "Steamboat Willie, presented by Disney". That's what trademark law protects - it stops other businesses from passing off on your reputation.

Even if someone is in the right, what is to stop Disney using frivolous lawsuits to deter people from exercising their rights?

PR. And if they're meritless, sooner or later a judge would get really angry at Disney and make them hurt.

The term you're probably looking for is "vexatious litigant"... though I seriously doubt Disney's legal team would let that happen.

Sorry for the naive question, can anyone explain what it means for something to enter the public domain? What is the public domain anyway? Is there a database somewhere of all the public things?

Does it mean anyone can put batman on a t-shirt, sell that t-shirt and keep all the profit? Does it mean batman movies can be pirated without repercussion?

There is the Public Domain Review[1] "dedicated to the exploration of curious and compelling works from the history of art, literature, and ideas" that have fallen into the public domain.

Think about Shakespeare's works for a good example of something in the public domain. Anyone can use Romeo & Juliet's characters any way they like. Similarly, there is a huge amount of derivative work of Price and Prejudice[2]

[1] https://publicdomainreview.org/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_literary_adaptations_o...

I'm not an expert by any means, but yes you could put Batman on a shirt and sell it. I'm not sure how it works for movies, but with audio the actual recordings are still copyrighted for some time after the music itself is in public domain.

It would be my guess that any works created after the first one still have copyright on the content itself. Correct me if I'm wrong.

No they won't. These characters are not only copyrighted, but trademarked as well, and that's perpetual.

Shitty click-bait - we all know disney will just pay-off some politicians and keep it's ip out of the public-domain. As they did the last few times. The have 12/16 years time still

If I understand correctly, you can only use the initial art as it is, but nothing else. Latter colorful work and trademark(not even related) should be still far from allowance, legally speaking.

Sopa was 7 years ago? Wow.

Is there reason to assume that Disney won't wreck it again? Because I remember seeing "Mickey Mouse is about to be public domain!" headlines 20 years ago.

I have a theory that in the next 50 years these copyright extension will become less relevant as more and more creative works start using less restrictive licenses.

That’s my hope, anyway.

I think they matter more than ever. Today, content is king and being able to ham-string up-starts by effectively eliminating several generations worth of content is great for established business interests.

If copyrights were only good for 30 years, then it would be cheap to start streaming services for music and movies. There's tons of great movies and music that you could to bootstrap your operation. Movies like Back to the Future could be freely viewed on YouTube.

Public domain works are incredibly valuable. Which is exactly why our founding fathers put the management of such powers in the hands of the federal government.

I would hope so. I'm older than the hills, and I was obsessively drawing batmobiles as a kid.

I own a batman.tld, no idea what do do with it though, any suggestions?

I still think Disney and others will make one more push for extension in 2023.

We'll see about that. They've clung to their creators this long.

Imagine the fanfiction renaissance that is about to be birthed.

I'm curious about mashups here...

Do they?

> So if the usual suspects had pushed for another copyright extension, they would have had a serious fight on their hands. Digital rights groups, online activists, and lobbyists from big technology companies would have swarmed Capitol Hill making the case against copyright extension. Evidently, major rights holders didn't have the stomach for another battle like that.

The fight now should go the other way - reverting current insane copyright term to its previous lengths. Copyright lobby might not be able to extend it more, but it doesn't mean that the current one is acceptable.

It's worth to point out that there is a great focus on Disney lobbying and Mickey mouse and so on, and of course these were major factors in getting the Sonny Bono passed, but originally one of the motivations was to harmonize the US copyright terms to the european ones which were already 70 years back when that law got passed. It's not the US where this term increase originated but europe.

Now in 2018 we are in a similar situation: again, europeans are passing new legislation that gives teeth to copyright by introducing censorship machines.

All this "harmonization" is simply a corrupt trick, driven by the same Disney and Co.

See also: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/03/ustr-secret-copyright-...

> All this "harmonization" is simply a corrupt trick, driven by the same Disney and Co.

Disney might be a force behind it, but it's literally true that Europe has been the leader in extending copyright terms, both the original extension last century, and then the most recent push as well.

The "harmonization" thing is a racket. In short, the corps pass the most restrictive copyright laws they can in whatever country they can pass it. Then they "harmonize" the other countries to that most restrictive policy, usually in the form of trade agreements which becomes domestic law everywhere. Rinse and repeat.

> The "harmonization" thing is a racket. In short, the corps pass the most restrictive copyright laws they can in whatever country they can pass it. Then they "harmonize" the other countries to that most restrictive policy, usually in the form of trade agreements which becomes domestic law everywhere. Rinse and repeat.

Okay, based on the history and timeline of copyright law, that means you're saying that the corporations pass the most restrictive copyright laws that they can in Europe, and then US law is lengthened to harmonize with Europe through trade agreements (except most recently, where the US declined to participate in the trade agreement with Europe which would have adopted an even stricter copyright law).

And the TPP was another attempt to do this w/asian countries. Harmonization only goes in one direction, with the countries w/shorter copyright terms always bending to match the most lengthy country's terms.


There are many works that are public domain in death+70 countries, but still copyrighted in the USA, thanks to its 95 year rule and URAA.

E.g., all works by authors who died in 1948 would now be public domain, but the US often requires that they were published before 1924.

The amount of effort to know what can be done with trademarks, copyrights etc makes it just easier to blatantly ignore it all. Because of the gaming of IP law, I have zero respect for it. I'll do whatever I want at this point. Legally buy stuff or pirating it. Sure I might get a dcma notice that has no teeth. Sometimes I'll just buy it and sometimes it's easier to pirate it.

Why bother to worry about copyrights?

Now it's time to push for copyright term reduction. Back to 50 years from first publication.

I think 50 years would be a reasonable first step. I think something more like 20 or 30 years would be more objectively reasonable (if you believed in the original intent of copyright, and not just for companies to be able to make as much money as possible out of any content), but potentially a bridge too far for the foreseeable future.

The main thing I'd like to see would be to get rid of any silly "life plus x years" terms.

It should be 20.

Do I hear 14?

I recall reading a study (years ago, so do not have a link at hand) that considered externalities of copyright and concluded that about 10-15 years would be a reasonable tradeoff between creators' and society's interests.

10-15 years after publication, though, not after death. Also, nonrenewable.

Is this the paper to which you are referring? https://rufuspollock.com/papers/optimal_copyright_term.pdf


Ok, 4.

Are we talking months, or hours?

While it sounds nice (from a consumer's perspective) to have no copyright at all, it would prevent a lot of media from being made, e.g. expensive movies.

Movies for well-known franchises could possibly be financed through crowd-funding, but that would make it hard for production companies to make bets in new franchises or directors.

If you can't make money in 20 years for a movie, it's never going to make money.

Everyone's good with this as far as software goes too, right? All apps go public domain after 20 years of release?

If copyright were shortened to 20 years as suggested, it would be legal to freely distribute copies of Windows 98 and Photoshop 5.0. I doubt that would make a dent in sales of Windows 10 or Creative Cloud. Newer versions of both would still be copyrighted, and there would be no obligation to release any unpublished source code.

Open Source, more like. A 20 year old software in vanilla state would likely just not run at all in current hardware.

Sure, but that's what projects like QEMU/DOSBox/other emulators and compatibility shims are for. There's so much abandonware out there, especially games that are stuck in licensing limbo that can't legally be acquired - and it's only going to get worse going forward as things like licensed middleware, soundtracks, etc. have been thrown into the mix with their own headaches.

@redbeard-- how about VAX/VMS for example? I believe licenses are still being sold for millions of dollars...

Probably for the up-to-date version. Not the 20 year old version.

> The fight now should go the other way - reverting current insane copyright term to its previous lengths. Copyright lobby might not be able to extend it more, but it doesn't mean that the current one is acceptable.

This proposal is not only just, but feasible.

The left should get on-board, since the retroactive copyright extensions effectively took away property that was promised to the public and reassigned it to media companies for a certain amount of time.

Constitutional conservatives should get on-board, since Congress's authority to establish a copyright office is rooted in the power "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts," and excessively long copyright terms stifle progress rather than promoting it.

I posted a while back advocating for a coordinated reform effort [0], and I still think we can get this done. Who’s in?

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18016752

Now that Mickey is out it should be easier. Disney was one of the most powerful lobbies for extension largely because of the mouse.

They are still going to enforce trademark on the Mickey, so it wont be easy to use it everywhere.

How are they going to enforce it if you don't mind me asking? When it expires doesn't that mean they can't enforce it?

Edit: Ah, trademark, not copyright, sorry!

Agreed. What's more, this is exactly what the 'left' wing political parties should be doing about now. They always say they can't get young people to vote. They always complain about losing to their opponents or what not.

Well, maybe actually saying they'll fix copyright laws, throw large corporations to the curb and actively fighting to reduce the term to a reasonable length may help with that. Show they're not corporate shills, and do something that younger people may actually support them with.

Is that enough on its own? Hell no, there are tons of things these parties need to do to win trust back. But it would be a great rallying point for them, and get a decent amount of support from internet folks and younger people.

The problem is that they are corporate shills. There are quite a few things I wish the Democratic party would do that I'd support, and lots of them they did historically. Even if they were still actually pushing anti-war, freedom of speech, and related things then that would be fantastic, but lately they seem to tow the same line as the Republicans on those issues.

> The problem is that they are corporate shills.

I really think the defining political problem of our age is campaign finance reform and to a lesser extent election reform.

I would reverse those. The hyper adversarial nature of our political environment is shaped by our electoral systems; specifically plurality voting, partisan primaries, and gerrymandered single member districts. Fixing those three things will go a long way towards restoring sanity to our politics.

> Fixing those three things will go a long way towards restoring sanity to our politics.

But didn't those three things exist when the sanity you want to restore prevailed?

The only points when "sanity prevailed" were when there was a clear Other to rally against and fight a war. The hyperpartisanship we're seeing is actually normal for the US.

The US was broken in the 1800s. It was broken in the 1820s-1840s with the fight over slavery. It was broken in the 1860s, and we had to fight a civil war to restore any sort of santy. It was broken in the 1880s after Restoration was rolled back. It was broken in 1900 with the rise of the Klan again. 1915 was WWI, in 1920 we were back to being broken. 1930s we were broken by depression and the fight against fascism, 1940s we had WW2. 1950s we had Korea, 1960s we were broken, 1970s we were broken, and that begun the decline of any sense of civility in the congress.

1980s we were completely broken, 1990s we were completely broken, 2000s we were completely broken, 2010s we were completely broken...

The lack of justice for Nixon broke any sense of normality left in the nation. And the Republicans nevertheless played off the idea that Nixon was somehow crucifed, and elected Reagan, then went on a witch-hunt against Clinton. Then they elected a historically bad president in Bush, started the longest wars in US history, and when people complained they crucified Obama in response. And then they elected the loudest finger-in-the-eye they could find in response.

The US has been somewhat broken for literally its entire existence but it has been actively unable to transact its internal business for about half of that... about half of that being in the last 50 years.

I think there are two big issues there.

The first is softball and obvious. Things can work on a small scale and collapse on a large scale. We started with around 30,000 citizens per congressional district (and thus per representative). And there was a strong urging to push it lower by some. This number was envisioned as remaining as a constant, for if you dilute the power and "connection" of the average voter too much, you risk exposing yourself to politicians too far detached from their constituency which can breed tyranny, corruption, and so on. And indeed 30,000 is already pretty far up there. Today we have more than 700,000 citizens per congressional district.

The second is a more contentious issue, but perhaps even more relevant. Today we've become an increasingly divided and polarized society where nuance is increasingly a lost art. Democracy does not work in such situations. Iraq is an extreme example. Iraq is fundamentally broken up into three major groups - Shiite, Sunni, and Kurds. And these groups tend to be extremely intolerant of one another with members of each group generally adopting wholesale all views of their own group and only their own group. It just turns into a tyranny of the majority.

Somehow the United States has started trending towards this exact behavior. This wasn't always the case. While we may have had vice president engage in a duel to the death with a secretary of the treasury, these were personal conflicts. Today people are engaging more in group conflicts. Democracy works when people are willing to work together, not when they view politics as a team sport where the idea is for your side to "win" and the other side to "lose."

Well, Iraq never developed the traditions or culture or whatever the preconditions for a democracy are. One was imposed on them by a neither competent nor determined foreign occupation force.

The US has had that precondition for centuries, so if we were to lose it, it would be a very different case fro Iraq, who never had it.

I think the factor behind increased polarisation in the US and across the democratic world probably is this thing right here. The internet! People are now increasingly getting their news and information, and thereby their world view from "social media", not the traditional mass media of the last 2-3 centuries.

It's a huge sea change, and we're only seeing the beginning of it. So far it't looking kinda scary, but things will keep changing quickly, and I think we'll sort things out. We better :)

Which is the primary aim of the new democratic house. I would not consider someone trying to limit corporate control of politics a corporate shill.

How about limiting political control of people, so corporations won’t try to control politics so much? Since so far “limiting corporate control of politics” looks more like gatekeeping: allowing some corporations to control while denying others.

Yet Larry Lessig was shut down the last time he tried bringing this into focus.

The 2016 election? Both the Democratic front-runner and the nearest also-ran not only had campaign finance reform prominently in their platforms (each with a full page devoted to the issue on their websites) but also brought it up during the debates.


The primary aim of the new democratic house is to continue in the same way under the same leadership as they have for the last 30 years. They're a conservative party who mainly want the same things as Republicans, but have somehow managed to bamboozle a whole new generation into thinking they're the party of civil rights, egalitarianism, labor, etc. They're about as interested in campaign and election reform as the Republicans.

How do you square your claims with this?


Politicians lie, and words are cheap.

I’ll re-evaluate them after I see what this house does. I certainly don’t want what the current party in power does.

The Supreme Court said limiting campaign finance is unconstitutional. What do you propose politicians do about it?

Amend the constitution?

I think the focus on extremely divisive issues like abortion, lgbt, climate change, etc... has brought the two parties more into line on most other issues, to the delight of many low key interest groups.

Note how the people that get blamed in these cases don't have much power to begin with, whereas topics involving economical inequality (and money in politics) put the blame on them. If you're a rich and powerful individual or company, it's a lot more convenient to focus on something like LGBT rights (where the blame can be put on poor/rural/uneducated folks) rather than taxes and political lobbying (where the blame would end up on bankers and large corporations).

It's insane, why not give ground on relatively unimportant wedge issues to fix real problems like inequality, climate change, etc...

Those are important issues for progressives. The right and middle share common most important issues: jobs, border, security. Progressives make up only about 8% of the population, and they're overwhelmingly white and wealthy. Here's a video discussing the relevant study.


I read the study, it's very good. The video not so much, and your summary here is misleading and wrong and not very representative of the study I just read.

First, the study specifically avoided self identification and labeling. They clustered people based on their answers to core belief questions. From which they found 7 key clusters. One of those the study labeled Progressive Activists. But that's a label put on after the fact. So it doesn't mean 8% of the population identify as progressive activist. Just that from the study, there's 8% of the population with very similar core beliefs.

Then the study demonstrates that self labels like being left, right, middle, conservative, Democrat, Republican, etc, are bad predictors of shared common issues.

Only 3 out of the 7 groups cared most about jobs, and only one group, the smallest one, cared most about immigration.

The groups the study labeled liberals make up 26%, and the ones labeled conservative 25%. But again, that's the labels the study gave people based on their answers.

Also, the wealthiest and withest cluster identified of them all is the Devoted Conservative.

Finally, the whole point of the study is that appart from the wings of progressist activist (composed of young professionals mostly), and from the traditional (old, white middle class mostly) and devoted conservatives (old, white and wealthiest mostly), all other groups are much more willing to compromise and have varying beliefs depending on the situation, and are most bothered by the wings polarizing the country. Thus when you look at the silent majority, they are much more diversified in opinions.

Because if you put the elimination of marriage and gender equality on the table, nobody's going to believe you're remotely interested in fixing inequality.

The government is literally shut down at the moment over a purely partisan divide, and you're trying to make a "they're all the same" point? Seriously?

They’re quibbling over basically nothing, making a purely us vs them grandstand. It’s about $1.3B vs $5B in border security funding. Yeah I think a wall is dumb, not least because I’m not sure which side of the rio grande they plan to put it on. This is a new point of contention though, I’m not sure prior to Trump Democrats and Republicans disagreed a whole lot on immigration or border security at all. How much mileage of fencing did the Obama administration put in? In 2011 he declared it “basically complete.” They found a difference the public cares about right now and seized on it for all they’re worth.

This reminds me of the futurama episode with the clones running for president: A: “your 10c titanium tax goes too far” B: “well I say your 10c titanium tax doesn’t go too far enough!”


Even if so, please don't break the site guidelines by calling names here.

On HN the idea is: if you have a substantive point to make, make it thoughtfully; if you don't, please don't comment until you do.


Edit: you've unfortunately been breaking the guidelines so often that we've banned your account. If you don't want to be banned, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the rules in the future.

If either party would start concentrating on free speech issues, they'd have my attention.

But these days, once you get past the five-second sound bites and the rhetoric, there is very little difference between what Republicans and Democrats actually do.

Bush starting two wars and Obama radically overhauling the US health insurance market are basically the same thing, once you get past the sound bites.

Theres plenty of ways to compare and separate the Republicans from the democrats, but war is really not one of them.

You mean the “left” parties that are bankrolled by Hollywood and media companies? That’s who you want to roll back copyright terms?

There is no left party in America.

This is correct; the options in the US as of the last election cycle are center-right and far-right. A Sanders type party would be left or probably more accurately center-left. That’s not a value judgement (you’re not a bad person for picking one or the other) just an assessment relative to world politics.

Obama was a pretty center-right politician, and Hillary would have been also. He didn’t support socialized medicine, didn’t support socialized education, didn’t push for a $15 minimum wage, didn’t really bolster unions — though didn’t try and demolish them either — and didn’t really tax the wealthy. He was also fairly supportive of the surveillance state. To his credit he did a lot of good work bolstering environmental regulations and pushing forward climate science. I’m a leftist by Canadian standards and I liked and respected Obama and I can confirm he was no leftist.

I might add that even California, one of the "left" most states, still has a death penalty.

Only 13 men have been executed since 1978, none since 2006. Isn't really a good measure of being "left" or not.

The rest of the western world sees the death penalty as morally wrong and more similar to murder than justice. By their standards you are essentially saying "The government has only murdered a few people recently".

More accurately would be the government murdered nobody recently. Sure they have in the past but California hasn't actually executed anyone in 12 years (13 in a few days). Also while California has the death penalty, it is fairly reserved in what can earn it: Repeatedly convicted first degree murder with a number of conditions, treason, intentionally derailing a train resulting in deaths, perjury resulting in someone else receiving the death penalty, or fatal assault as an escaped convict already in for life. With the exception of possibly treason, all of those seem like mostly reasonable conditions if a state had to have a death penalty.

> intentionally derailing a train resulting in deaths

That seems oddly specific, do you know why it singles out trains?

From what I can find that bit was added in the 1870s to help curtail train robbers who were using more aggressive and destructive means to acquire their loot.

They also have solitary confinement

With or without Internet?

I believe being deprived of internet access is considered “cruel and unusual punishment” in the SV area ;)

<insert follow-on joke about Comcast>

> He didn’t support socialized medicine

i'm a bit confused... wasn't Obamacare, like, that? (nb not a US citizen)

It was just an broad extension of private health insurance. In fact it was very heavily based on a similar system implemented in Massachsets by, er, Republicans under Mitt Romney. That’s why Obama though he could get it through. The only reason the republicans fought it at the national level was because Obama.

In fact until they turned on it for political strategy reasons it was quite popular with Republican representatives and saw extensive bipartisan review and amendment. The Republican narrative that it was pushed through without them having a say is flat out false.

As a UK conservative I’ve had it up to my teeth with the US Republican Party. It seems like all they’ve got left is reactionaryism and nationalism. They’re now even dismantling trade deals largely built by free trade republicans, and can’t even support their own policies as soon as anyone else supports them too. They’re totally dysfunctional.

I’m a big believer that any political party that has power for too long becomes corrupt. Success attracts mouthpiece politicians that parrrot the party line because it’s successful, without thinking through and living the basic principles. I’ve seen it happen to the Conservative party. I voted con in 1997 but we deserved that defeat. It happened to labour under Blair and Brown. The US republicans have had the same disease since the Bush eras and just can’t shake it. The fact the democrats have occupied the centre right had forced republicanism into a reactionary corner. As a conservative myself it horrible to watch. They’ve become a twisted parody of the party I once loved under Reagan.

Oops. Rant.

Usually, the definition includes the government determining what (basic) insurance covers and what price the insurers pay to the hospitals. Those two things are missing in ACA/Obamacare.

For example in The Netherlands, the government defines a extensive healthcare package that every insurer must provide to everyone, insurers must accept everyone for and all their clients must pay the same price, and they also determine what hospitals can charge for certain procedures. "Add-ons" like sport-related Physical Therapy are mostly unregulated.

That's far more far-reaching than Obamacare, which allows age-based price discrimination, only mandates coverage of 10 categories and does not regulate hospital pricing.

i see. thanks for the explanation!

Nope, that was mandatory private insurance that you paid for yourself.

ams6110 75 days ago [flagged]

Trump is not "far" right. He's not even really a conservative.

Sanders is a socialist, he says as much himself.

Trump's tax cuts, deregulation and increase in military spending are very much conservative policies.

Yes. But tariffs and protectionism are historically center stones of the left. So it’s a mixed bag. A normal leftist party would support tariffs strongly according to historical precedence. We live in strange times though.

But protecting local workers from competing with low cost Chinese workers and illegal migrants are very left wing policies, probably the most left wing policies enacted by any president in decades.

I wouldn't call increasing military spending left or right, just about every corner of the political spectrum has done this at some point, most notably the Soviet Union.

He uses illegal immigrants in his own business. He doesn't care about the workers, its all just a way to rile up his base.

Protectionism is not specifically a left or right wing policy. There are right wing and left wing reasons to support protectionism. But the left traditionally has been opposed to protectionism because it was seen as way for farmers and other industries to make workers pay too much for their food and other goods.

As far as restricting all immigration, that's very far right.

Economically that is correct. The whole US is very much 'business-friendly'.

Business friendly? I am not so sure. Maybe "large/existing business friendly"? After all, the private sector spends a lot of money on pressuring government to maintain existing monopolies/status quos, and the government is happy to oblige.

In many US states, companies can fire employees without cause. That's very friendly to small businesses.

(I based in South Africa, but traveled the world. So I'm fairly neutral)

What you described is exactly one form of 'business-friendly'. Unfortunately, it is logical. Big business brings big investment and hold a lot of employment under its umbrella. Small businesses might, on aggregated level, provided more jobs or tax revenue, but they don't have a single voice to represent their interests.

So I guess you are right, it is truly 'big-business-friendly', whether that is good or bad, I don't know.

Business friendly often means giving big businesses tax breaks, which means that the government is seeing less of these big investements. May, instead, the lobbying power that big businesses can afford, have something to do with their power? I'll give you the employment argument, though.

Hollywood talent (some of them) may be left-wing, but the corporations that hire them are corporations that care far more about lowering taxes, reducing regulations, and access to American law enforcement assets: all rather right-wing goals. If you want to go after megaupload, or prevent a new internet-related tax, you want to back right-wing parties. So don't assume that any corporation with hollywood links will automatically share left-wing opinions. Their employees, movie stars, might. But in the end, financial motivations trump all.

There is also a huge right-wing movement among celebrities. Ignoring one particular rap artist, many of the older and more successful actors are right-wing icons. From Clint Eastwood and Kelsey Grammer to Mel Gibson, once you are sitting on a pile of money one's opinions tend to shift right. The biggest and most successful media organization at the moment is FOX, and the biggest television stars are the fox presenters. IIRC Judge Judy remains the highest paid TV presenter/host.

And Regan. And Trump. Both hollywood personalities.

Idk. If the corporations cared so much they would be pushing a conservative message down our throats all day and trying to get more of their people elected in government

If they wanted “lower taxes” to be the biggest issues they have all the power to make it happen.

The only reason conservative groups do so well is because they are the exception to the majority left-leaning entertainment industry. Conservative thought is highly concentrated to a few sources (in the mainstream)

Idk. If the corporations cared so much they would be pushing a conservative message down our throats all day and trying to get more of their people elected in government

This is literally what happens every day in 2019 America. I invite you to spend five minutes learning about the American Legislative Exchange Council, how ALEC writes state-level legislation, the Republican project "REDMAP", and how they all fit together.

Here's one story: https://billmoyers.com/story/alec-koch-industries-gerrymande...

If they wanted “lower taxes” to be the biggest issues they have all the power to make it happen.


> reducing regulations

Copyright and intellectual property are entirely state constructs. Media companies and IP trolls (to whatever degree you can separate the two) definitely do not want deregulation in this regard.

> Copyright and intellectual property are entirely state constructs.

Copyright and patent laws are enacted by Congress, and are explicitly an optional legislative power given to Congress by the US Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 8). The two main types of "intellectual property" are explicitly something that Congress has power to legislate.

Congress has also legislated additional forms of "intellectual property": copyright is codified in 17 U.S.C. (Copyright Act), patents in 35 U.S.C., trademarks in 15 U.S.C. 1051-1141 (Lanham Act), and trade secrets in 18 U.S.C. 1839. So all of the substantive forms of "intellectual property" are federal law, and thus aren't state constructs.

EDIT: Ah, if you meant "state" as in "government" then yes you're correct.

I think he meant "things that doesn't exist outside a regulated state", not things managed at the state level.

I am afraid you are mistaken about Hollywood. Powerful Weinstein, until the downfall, was a massive contributor to Democrats. Most of the top agencies are led by people who donate millions to almost exclusively Democrat candidates. Wrong or right, it’s indisputable that Hollywood industries are overwhelmingly left or left leaning. For every Clint Eastwood, I can give you 25 Stephen Spielbergs.

Just because they make tens of millions of dollars doesn't mean that they're the ones holding the pursue strings. For every 10,000 Spielbergs, Eastwoods, and Weinstein's there is one Les Moonves type who actually calls all the shots. The employees are overwhelmingly liberal. The employers, not so much.

Besides, most actors/directors/producers dont make nearly enough money to have the impact of a Koch or Mercer.

Being pro democrat is not being left at all. It’s being center right. The left since Carter has pushed forth far right neoliberal economic policy. Bill Clinton is universally known for his right wing policy. Obama literally bailed out the banks rather then the people with mortgages. Obama could have easily bought up the bad debts from the bank at a discount and allowed people to restructure their mortgages with 4.7 trillion dollars. Instead he gave it to the banks, allowed everyone to lose their house and be bought up by predators like Blackstone Realty.

The TARP program was 800 billion dollars, not in the trillions. Not sure where you are getting the 4.7 trillion figure from.

The problem wasn't really the bad debt. The problem was one of confidence, and putting the money into the banks restored that confidence.

As repugnant as it seemed, and still seems, to give that money to the bankers that created the problems, it was likely the right move at the time. We'll never really know since we can't go back and try the other way, but things were grinding to a halt, and putting money in people's hands was it going to move things quickly enough.

4.7t is probably in reference to QE, which in part was used by the central Bank to purchase mortgage backed securities, the rest spent to supress bond yeilds. Banks ostensibly offloaded their poor performing mbs's onto the average citizen who earns and spends in USD. When the central Bank decides to invent trillions to support poorly managed debt obligations it is debasing the value of your earnings potential. The act should be vigourusly debated and the method by which the funds are dispursed should be scrutinized heavily.

>The problem wasn't really the bad debt. No, it was a problem of bad debt, poorly managed securities specifically MBS lead to a Ponzi like situation that should have been allowed to wind down instead of propped up. Lenders should have bit the bullet and lessons should have been learned. The political fallout from the decision to put off the the inevitable are only starting to become manifest in current politics.

I live in Canada where atypical interest rates as a result of lockstep CB policy with the US has completely distorted our real estate market. The result is going to be a lost generation that lives at home for a decade longer than their parents. This is all the result of fiscal policy trying to hold up the remains of the 2008 crisis instead of raising the problem to ground and starting again with a more humbled outlook. The Piper will be paid, it's just a matter of when, and who will be paying.

They always say they can't get young people to vote. They always complain about losing to their opponents or what not.

Rolling back copyright is not exactly a great rallying cry for a politician. Out of all of the things that most young voters care about, that’s not on the top of their list.

Enough do though, in order for the Pirate Party to become big enough in Europe.

Switching the context of the discussion by an entire continent might as well be a different discussion.

Also unlike American/UK first-past-the-pole voting most(?) of Europe uses a fairer (IMO) approach with multiple representatives from each district meaning more opinions gets heard instead of just two parties like in US.

The pirate party wouldn't stand a chance in the US IMO.

The only thing you need to give me is affordable housing. But nobody seems really interested :/

What's the story with the Pirate Party in US? I wouldn't call this a "left" or "right" issue even. Those terms aren't descriptive of this problem.

The story is that there is no story. They have no seats, no news, I don't really hear about them at all, good or bad.

People just pirate instead of making a political statement out of it. Sometimes they justify it in terms of how they're broke anyways, or support creators in other ways, or in terms of how ridiculous copyright law has gotten... but none of it really rises to the level of a significant political movement. Maybe it's the usually toothless enforcement, or the general lack of will to sue 5 year olds for millions over singing happy birthday, or just enough settlement NDAs to hide the lawsuits under the rug, but I guess it just isn't seen as much of a political issue.

I suspect it's seen as a theoretical problem more than a practical one. When specific instances of draconian abuse of IP law do rise to being a visible practical problem (company vs company doesn't count), eventually enough political pressure mounts that one of the parties might fix it. But there are "bigger" issues, so it's usually pretty quiet, with neither party having clean enough hands to score any easy points, so they just settle for not kicking any more puppies.

While copyright reform gets little traction, mucking with the ability to pirate will stir up enough of a hornets nest to actually be a political issue (cough Net neutrality cough), which is currently generally "fixed" by the more regulation-happy Democrats than the business-friendly Republicans.

> The story is that there is no story.

Exactly the point. Why is that? In Europe they exist.

We really only have 2 parties here. Sure, independent parties have held office, but the people in the US really only vote red or blue. Other parties don’t really get national coverage either. When it comes time for presidential debates you’ll only ever see 2 parties represented. No one can take a different option seriously because we’re not really giving a different option ground to stand on.

"Red or blue" is too reductive. Trump and Romney were both "team red" but could not be more different as candidates.

While the US has only two major parties, these parties are unusually flexible and can accomodate major shifts: the Reagan revolution, "third way" Bill Clinton, Trump... The intra-group conflicts do get played out in the primaries.

So this needs fixing first then.

Hollywood and associated content creation/monetization businesses are historically strongly aligned with the Democrats - though I agree with your ideal, it is not likely that the party will bite the hand that feeds it.

Something something about biting the hand that feeds you. Not a critique against the left, more like the system as a whole seems more and more about pandering to special interests and corporations.

> this is exactly what the 'left' wing political parties should be doing about now

I could imagine someone like Trump, but smarter, doing it. Big tech and big content are aligned with the Democrats. So why should the Republicans care about pissing them off?

This is no left-right issue. This is billion doller CEOs vs the rest of society.

Billionaires vs regular people is explicitly a right vs left issue.

Right and left are so diluted and ambiguous terms these days, to the point of being meaningless. Using them doesn't help any conversation.

On the other hand, perhaps it provides an opportunity for people to learn what the terms actually mean. (It took a Canadian to help me realize just how confused we Americans are on this topic.)

Yet most billionaires and multimillionaires support Democratic party. Go figure.

A lot of high-profile ones do, but "most" is probably not true. There are a lot of very quiet, very angry billionaires out there.

The US Democratic party, going by its principles, is center or center-right by most standards outside of the US.

This claim crops up a lot, but the counting only seems to work out if we either put a finger on the scale for European standards, or perhaps if we count nominal communism in its traditional place on the far left.

Have you just discounted the entirety of the global south to make your point?

Which parts of the global south do you find comparatively left-leaning?

By comparison, the majority of the other top ten most populous countries in the world are notoriously right of typical Western. (A crude measure, granted.)

"The terms "left" and "right" appeared during the French Revolution of 1789 when members of the National Assembly divided into supporters of the king to the president's right and supporters of the revolution to his left."


"Those on the Left often called themselves "republicans", while those on the Right often called themselves "conservatives"."


"The use of the words Left and Right spread from France to other countries and came to be applied to a large number of political parties worldwide, which often differed in their political beliefs"


"The right is always the party sector associated with the interests of the upper or dominant classes, the left the sector expressive of the lower economic or social classes, and the centre that of the middle classes. Historically this criterion seems acceptable."


"The differences between left and right have altered over time. The initial cleavage at the time of the French Revolution was between supporters of absolute monarchy (the Right) and those who wished to limit the king's authority (the Left). During the 19th century, the cleavage was between monarchists and republicans. Following the establishment of the Third Republic in 1871, the cleavage was between supporters of a strong executive on the Right and supporters of the primacy of the legislature on the Left"


"The terms left-wing and right-wing are widely used in the United States, but as on the global level there is no firm consensus about their meaning."


"Some political scientists have suggested that the classifications of "left" and "right" are no longer meaningful in the modern complex world"


"In 2006, British Prime Minister Tony Blair described the main cleavage in politics as not left versus right, but open versus closed.[54] In this model, attitudes towards social issues and globalism are more important than the conventional economic left–right issues: "open" voters tend to be socially liberal, multicultural and in favour of globalism, while "closed" voters are culturally conservative, opposed to immigration and in favour of protectionism. This model has seen increased support following the rise of populist and centrist parties in the 2010s."

-- https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left–right_political_spectru...

If you actually believe that I honestly pity you.

I do think think young people care very much about copyright.

if only left didn't have enough people calling 'em communists. I'm all for rolling back copyright extensions waaay back, but politically this will draw a giant target on your forehead, and aiming assist powered by Disney's billions.

From other hand, deep frustration with such situation leads to the populism we see around us.

You're talking about the "left wing" as if has any real meaning. You should use better political terms.

I would say "more precise" political terms, such as on individual issues.

Sad that you got down-voted, because you're 100% correct on this point. "Left wing" and "right wing" are totally meaningless terms in modern times. Neither describes any consistent, principled ideology, but rather they each just refer to a cribbed together hodgepodge of different ideas, loosely related at best, and contradictory at worst.

Mostly "left wing" and "right wing" exist now just to serve as pejoratives to refer to people in "the other camp" relative to whichever label an individual has chosen to identify with.

A simple one-dimensional model like "left <-> right" cannot adequately represent the varieties of political thought in existence.

I don't think they are completely meaningless: Wikipedia manages to give a definition. However, I think they are often misused, misunderstood, and not very useful in practice.

OK, to be fair, maybe I should have said "almost totally meaningless". But I still contend that they are terms that convey very little intrinsic meaning, and have become pejoratives more than anything else.

They can be used as pejoratives once "extreme" is added.

Which is to say, they are useless :)

I agree 100%. Political terms of today only serve a purpose of saying "them, not me", often with disrespectful connotation.

I believe the same with the terms 'liberal' and 'conservative', and I've been interested in writing a blog to explain myself. Essentially, everyone is both liberal and conservative. Every day we make decisions that stereotypically fit both of these labels, yet we entirely ignore it.

If a "conservative" is someone who conserves product and tradition and resists change, then wouldn't a a hippy protecting a forest from bulldozing be a conservative? Portland OR is going through growing pains right now because the locals (majority self proclaim as 'liberals') are being kicked out due to high rent. Wouldn't resisting this change be a conservative move?

If an overweight 'conservative' buys a pallet of soda because Walmart has a bulk sale, are they liberal because they're buying a lot, or conservative because they're getting a slight discount thus saving money? If neither political parties (D/R) want to actually reduce our debt, aren't they both 'liberal'?

[Edit: and if defining a person as (l/c) simply means they live a life that's more than half one or the other, then that will beg the question: how do you even begin to quantify this crap? Simply put... You can't. Use better words.]

My point is that these terms don't make as much sense as we like to think they do. We need to start using better and more descriptive terms to describe our politics.

Really you think with all the challenges that the young generation rent faces copyright extension is going to be the key motivator to vote out trump etc?

Nobody would have ever heard of, nor care about Mickey Mouse if it weren’t for that evil Disney corporation. Those corporations often fund and create the very IP you want to copy. If someone creates something, it’s weird that people feel entitled to it.

I think a point to make here is that the creative output of someone is often unrelated to other aspects; I know of many artists online, for instance, who are very skilled but have insane (relative to modern Internet conventions) restrictions, such as that you can't even re-share the picture with credit and a link to the artist.

I also take issue with framing this as entitlement, since copyright only exists due to the idea that content producers are 'entitled' to restriction on what they release to the public. I'd also argue that all members of society should have some entitlement to re-use and re-mix the social product. This isn't such a popular idea in late hyper-commodification, but I think it's an important one nevertheless, just as the creators of the material felt entitled to use society's abstract product (ideas and support) maybe it's right for me to feel entitled to use their abstract product - the idea of Mickey Mouse and Batman.

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