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Jentasmic!: Disney’s Influence on Florida 2012 Elections

5 Oct

In this week’s Jentasmic!, I muse about Disney’s involvement in Florida’s electoral politics. A snippet:

Based on recent political contributions by Walt Disney World, we should probably be singing “It’s a Republican world after all” as we glide along through a classic indoor boatride. According to the Orlando Sentinel, “Walt Disney World has spent nearly $2.5 million on political candidates and causes in Florida so far this election cycle” (as of September 27, 2012), with approximately 90% of that money going to Republican candidates or Republican-leaning interest groups.

And I’m sure I’m just scratching the surface; Disney has a long and complex relationship with politics in Florida (and nationwide — let’s not forget Sonny Bono’s Mickey Mouse Protection Act). Vance at StudiosCentral points out that Disney’s also recently been involved with preventing a paid sick-leave question from appearing on the Florida ballot. From HuffPo:

Thanks largely to the pressure brought by the business lobby in Orange County, Fla., it appears the most magical place on earth won’t include mandated sick leave for workers anytime soon.

Last month, Orange’s Board of County Commissioners voted to put off a ballot vote on a hotly contested measure that would require employers to provide workers with one hour of sick leave for every 37 hours worked, capped at 56 per year. By delaying the vote until after the printing deadline for the Nov. 6 ballot, the board’s move at least temporarily scuttled an initiative that 50,000 voters had petitioned to put to a public vote.

I took a quick look at the current union contract for full-time WDW Cast Members, and full-time Cast Members can earn up to 48 hours of sick leave per year (assuming one works 8-hour days, that’s 6 days worth). That’s below the average for full-time workers in the US, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And I’m well-aware that many Cast Members are neither full-time nor covered by the union. Any Cast Members have stories they’d like to tell? Plenty of room here in the comment section below.

Why You Should Oppose SOPA, and Let Disney Know

22 Dec

Anybody familiar with the history of the Copyright Term Extension Act (aka the Mickey Mouse Protection Act) should not be surprised that Disney’s supporting SOPA, the very bad no good ready-to-break-the-internet Act on which the US Congress will resume deliberation in January.

You don’t believe that SOPA’s really all that bad? Maybe you’ll listen to Adam Savage of Mythbusters:

These bills aren’t simply unconstitutional, they are anticonstitutional. They would allow for the wholesale elimination of entire websites, domain names, and chunks of the DNS (the underlying structure of the whole Internet), based on nothing more than the “good faith” assertion by a single party that the website is infringing on a copyright of the complainant. The accused doesn’t even have to be aware that the complaint has been made.

Okay, he’s a TV star. Maybe you want something a little less glossy, like perhaps the Stanford Law Review (not usually my go-to site for internet technology discussions, but they distill this one quite nicely):

Directing the remedial power of the courts towards the Internet’s core technical infrastructure in this sledgehammer fashion has impact far beyond intellectual property rights enforcement—it threatens the fundamental principle of interconnectivity that is at the very heart of the Internet. The Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS) is a foundational block upon which the Internet has been built and upon which its continued functioning critically depends; it is among a handful of protocols upon which almost every other protocol, and countless Internet applications, rely to operate smoothly. Court-ordered removal or replacement of entries from the series of interlocking databases that reside in domain name servers and domain name registries around the globe undermines the principle of domain name universality—the principle that all domain name servers, wherever they may be located across the network, will return the same answer when queried with respect to the Internet address of any specific domain name. Much Internet communication, and many of the thousands of protocols and applications that together provide the platform for that communication, are premised on this principle.

Or, well, my spouse, who writes on internet security for CIO:

SOPA and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), another piece of legislation, both want to crack down on internet pirating – a goal every bit as laudable as the measures themselves are flawed. The bills would require companies to monitor user content, limiting the use of pictures, video and audio and other media. One problem that is it is pretty much impossible to tell the difference between an ISP interfering with a connection because of a court order and a hacker interfering prior to an attack.

The US House of Representatives lists both ABC and “Disney Publishing Worldwide” as supporters of SOPA. It’s not clear to me how to contact their offices; when I tried the number listed for them on Gizmodo, I had a lovely conversation with a receptionist in upstate New York, after which I was convinced that Disney’s support of SOPA is coming from somewhere other than this small local office. Which, of course, would be consistent with the fact that many other companies on the list are essentially part of Disney (ie, ABC, Marvel, ESPN). So, I’ve directed my comments through the Disney Corporate Citizenship feedback form, and invite you to do the same. Here’s what I wrote:

The US House of Representatives web site tells me that Disney Publishing Worldwide is a supporter of SOPA, HR 3261 (http://judiciary.house.gov/issues/Rouge%20Websites/SOPA%20Supporters.pdf). SOPA poses threats both to the First Amendment, and to the fundamental technical underpinnings of the Internet.

As a regular consumer of many Disney media channels, parks, and products, and as a US citizen and voter, I ask that Disney retract its support of this act.

And if all this opposition to SOPA is for naught? For all the technical and legal problems SOPA would cause, certain of its intrusions would be surprisingly easy to get around. Download this episode of GeekNights now, on Circumventing SOPA. You’re welcome.

(And hey, am I the only one who noticed that the House.gov URL above includes the phrase “Rouge Websites?” I know they mean rogue . . . but it makes me think SOPA is targeting Sephora.)

New Copyright Alliance Formed In D.C.

12 Jun

Fans of the Mickey Mouse Protection Act will be glad to hear that a new copyright alliance has been formed, intending to further strengthen copyright laws. (Regular slashdot readers will not be surprised to hear . . . “I for one welcome our copyright-law-promoting overlords!”)

Those of us who are not great fans of the MMPA, on the other hand, may be a tad concerned that things are going too far. Lautreamont once wrote “Plagiarism is necessary. Progress demands it.” The Qlipoth blog has an interesting commentary on this quote:

The type of plagiarism needed is taking up, a making one’s own of ideas. Just as in the best experiences of drugs, riots, music, sex, and perhaps others – the boundaries of where one begins and another ends become blurred, but not erased – plagiarism must do the same. Plagiarism as detournement, but directed less at changing the original than at producing the new.

As society becomes increasingly post-modern, so must art. Did Andy Warhol commit plagiarism by re-appropriating the famous Campbell Soup can? Are mash-up videos inherently plagiarist? Where is the line, and who gets to draw it?

Video of Chinese Fake Disney Park

10 May

Have any doubts about whether Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park is a Disneyland knockoff? Just watch this:

Man, seeing those beloved characters represented through ill-fitting, cheaply-made fur costumes . . . and when they take their heads off in front of Guests . . . I can’t help but shudder.

But does anybody else find this all a bit amusing, especially in the context of the Mickey Mouse Protection Act? And the fact that many of Disney’s best-loved classic characters are based on public-domain folklore?

And there’s more on the Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park situation today from DIS News:

Disney bosses are in crisis talks with the owners of a ‘fake’ Chinese version of the famous amusement park.

The Shijingshan Amusement Park included a raven-haired woman with seven men in elf suits, a ‘Mickey’ mouse and other Disney-style characters.

Deputy general manager, Yin Zhiqiang, said: “The characters in our park just look a little bit similar to theirs. But the faces, clothes, sizes and appearances are different.”

“We do not have any agreements with Disney.”

How Can Disney Own “Bollywood”???

5 Jan

I’ve had this article in my blogreader for a while, and I just keep re-reading it in disbelief: wdwinfo.com reports that Disney now owns the word Bollywood.

First it was neem and Basmati that US companies wanted to register. Now it’s ‘Bollywood’ which has been granted as a trademark to Disney Enterprises Inc. It got the ‘Bollywood’ trademark from the Indian Trademarks Registry.

So, you can soon be drinking Bollywood beer wearing a Bollywood branded sweat shirt and shoes — all owned by US-based Disney. Thus, all sites on the internet containing the word Bollywood, makers of films like Bollywood Hollywood, all albums containing the Bollywood name, and magazines like Bollywood Masala could also be in for a legal battle.

Disney has filed for registration under 7 classes of Schedule 4 of the Indian Trade Mark rules as well which pertain to paper products and film and film equipment. The patent was filed by Delhi-based Anand & Anand Associates for Disney Enterprises, Inc.

(Confused? Don’t know what Bollywood is? Check out this wikipedia article for some context.)

Now, I’m no expert on US copyright law . . . much less Indian copyright law. But I can’t help seeing this in the context of the 1998 Mickey Mouse Protection Act.

Mickey’s Infinite Copyright

25 Sep

David Goodger has posted some great, subversive graphics in protest of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, aka the Mickey Mouse Protection Act.

(Re-distributed under the Creative Commons license posted here.)

Looks like this would make a great t-shirt, eh? It might be a bit tricky to stencil . . . but since it’s open-source, it’s licensed so that you can modify and redistribute, as long as you comply with the license terms linked above.

Mickey’s infinite copyright is particularly ironic in light of the fact that many Disney classics never could have come to pass had similar protections been in place to protect folk tales such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella, all of which were published first in the Kinder- und Hausmärchen, aka Grimms Fairy Tales, but had previously circulated in un-protected, re-distributible form.

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