Search form

Disney Victory As Supreme Court Upholds Copyright Law

The Walt Disney Company can rest easy for another twenty years as the Supreme Court has upheld a 1998 Congressional Act extending existing copyrights. On Wednesday, January 15, 2003, the justices voted 7-2 to uphold the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), a 1998 law that extended millions of existing copyrights by an additional 20 years. In the matter of the ruling, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority, "We are not at liberty to second-guess congressional determinations and policy judgments of this order, however debatable or arguably unwise they may be." At the time of its enactment, the CTEA became known as the "Mickey Mouse Extension Act" because of aggressive lobbying by Disney. Disney's fight to pass the act appeared to be tied in part to the nearing copyright expiration of the Mickey Mouse animated short STEAMBOAT WILLIE. Due to have run out in 2003, the CTEA newly extended WILLIE's copyright until 2023. While the ruling is mainly considered a victory for large conglomerates like Disney and AOL Time Warner, who will continue to receive royalties for well-known properties, it is also being supported by organizations such as the Writer's Guild, who released a statement that said the extension is good for artists and the industry. Under the terms of the CTEA, works created after 1978 are copyrighted for the author's life plus 70 years. Works owned by corporations are now protected for 95 years.

Dr. Toon discusses how the U.S. Copyright Term Extension Act impacts toondom. Is corporate America protecting itself or robbing the public?