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Unauthorized Movie Shot at Disney Parks; What Should Disney Do?

25 Jan

This week at StudiosCentral, my Jentasmic! column addresses a movie that’s getting a lot of internet buzz and prompting discussions of intellectual property rights:

There’s been a lot of buzz on the internet about Escape from Tomorrow, a film which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this week. The film was shot primarily at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, without permission from Disney; cast and crew filmed surreptitiously, mostly with handheld cameras. It tells the story of a man slowly losing his mind during the course of a day at Walt Disney World, after receiving bad news by phone in the early part of the day. It’s certainly not anything that a reasonable person would confuse for an actual Disney product. (Of course, like most people who aren’t at Sundance, I haven’t seen the film.)

Head over to StudiosCentral to read the rest. (tl;dr: I don’t think Disney should do a thing.

Chinese Anime/Disney-Lookalike Video Service

23 Jan

From Anime News Network:

The Chinese service Xu You Ji lets parents pay to have their children turned into 3D models and animated in their own CG action-adventure shorts. The children also dub their own voices into the work. The custom video service debuted in 2009, but recently garnered attention because of one of its videos, featuring Gundam models and other anime elements, was posted online this week.

An example of their use of Disney-copyrighted materials is at 3:10 in this video, and again as the credits roll at about 5:30:

And yes, the company claims there’s no copyright issue here. Go to their FAQ and let your browser translate, and you should see something like this at question 4:

those cartoons on TV common is it? There are no copyright issues?

The animation is our own design and development headquarters, and have our own rights, but also into some of the popular cartoon elements, but by our own cartoon adaptation, does not involve copyright issues.

Ah, those wacky cross-cultural differences when it comes to intellectual property rights.

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.)

Disney Acquires Togetherville: Smart, and Maybe Creepy

25 Feb

Togetherville main pageDisney acquired the Togetherville social networking site this week, which is probably a great move for profits, and convenient for parents of young kids. But it also raises all sorts of red flags about potential data-mining privacy violations. From my StudiosCentral Jentasmic! column this morning:

Remember that rumor some time back that characters in the park might someday remember your name and your number of previous visits, based on data stored in a specialized wrist band? Well, if this were integrated with Togetherville and Facebook, Mickey might also happen to know that you hit a new high score yesterday on Pixel Purge, and that your Dad’s sciatica has been acting up.

And of course, let’s not forget that anything ABC or ESPN knows, Disney knows. So, Mickey might want to know what you thought about the last episode of Grey’s Anatomy that you watched last night on your web browser, or the Celtics game.

I remember in the early dot com wave, you could tell who the most powerful person in the room was, because usually he (yes, usually he) would be wearing board shorts and flip flops to the executive committee meeting. Today, I’ll bet you can tell who the most powerful person in the room is by figuring out who has the least (true, personal) information available about them online.

Mickey Mouse: Teaching Tool for Evolution

25 Aug

Boston.com brings us a story from the New York Times (which requires login) of a Florida teacher using images of Mickey Mouse to teach evolution:

A former Navy flight instructor not used to pulling his punches, Campbell fought hard for passage of the new standards. But with his students last spring, he found himself treading carefully as he tried to bridge an ideological divide that stretches well beyond his classroom. He started with Mickey Mouse.

On the projector, Campbell placed slides of the cartoon icon: one at his skinny genesis in 1928, one from his 1940 turn as the impish “Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” and one of the rounded, ingratiating charmer of Mouse Club fame.

“How,” he asked his students, “has Mickey changed?”

Natives of Disney World’s home state, they waved their hands and called out answers.

“His tail gets shorter,” Bryce volunteered.

“Bigger eyes!” someone else shouted.

“He looks happier,” one girl observed. “And cuter.”

Campbell smiled. “Mickey evolved,” he said. “And Mickey gets cuter because Walt Disney makes more money that way. That is ‘selection.’ ”

Later, he would get to the touchier part, about how the minute changes in organisms that drive biological change arise spontaneously, without direction. And how a struggle for existence among naturally varying individuals has helped to generate every species, living and extinct, on the planet.

What a wonderful companion piece this is to the news that vintage images of our dear little rodent may in fact be public domain! Leaving aside of course the stormy politics over teaching evolution, and of Florida’s decision that it must be taught, I’m sure there are plenty of teachers out there who could develop innovative curriculum using Mickey’s familiar and appealing image, and perhaps even distribute that curriculum under a Creative Commons license.

There are good reasons for intellectual property to make its way into the public domain. And it is, of course, ironic that the Mickey Mouse Protection Act may not in fact have covered vintage Mickey at all.

(Hat tip: BoingBoing.)

All Your Jokes Are Belong to Us

22 Nov

Mr. Broke Hoedown pointed me to BoingBoing earlier this week, commenting on the intellectual property agreement that we’re all agreeing to if we text jokes to the Monsters Inc Laugh Floor Comedy Club (MILFCC):

Disney’s lawyers shoehorned this lengthy, decidedly Un-Magic disclaimer into all the signage in the ride, letting you know that Mike Wyzowski, Monsters Inc and, now, your jokes are owned by Disney.

Makes you think twice about whether to text those jokes to the MILFCC, doesn’t it? Broke Hoedown Jr. just asked me if this means Disney can sue him if he becomes a stand-up comedian and uses the joke he texted them last December. And yes indeed I believe it does, technically speaking . . . though of course tracking and enforcement issues would be tricky.

Congratulations to Lou Mongello and The WDW Radio Show!

16 Aug

The 2007 People’s Choice podcast awards were announced today, and The WDW Radio Show has taken top honors in the Travel category. (Hat tip to 2719 Hyperion.)

If you love Disney trivia and history, and have a few spare hours each week (sorry Lou, I couldn’t resist!), you really owe it to yourself to check out The WDW Radio Show. This week’s show is a great example of the high-quality, in-depth content.

I am also going to introduce the first in a recurring series entitled, Legends of Disney Imagineering. My first guest certainly qualifies to bear that title and introduction. He is George McGinnis, who played a large part in the creation of the Mark VI monorail, Space Mountain, Horizons, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and countless other attractions and vehicles in Walt Disney World. In this exclusive, one-on-one interview, Mr. McGinnis shares stories of being personally hired by Walt Disney, the triumphs and challenges in creating such attractions as the WEDWay PeopleMover, Space Mountain, Communicore and countless others. He reminisces about working with not only Walt Disney, but a who’s who of Disney legends, including Dick Nunis, Marty Sklar, John Hench, Bob Gurr, Roger Broggie, Claude Coates, and so many others. It is truly something special that I think you’re going to enjoy and was a personal privilege for me to do. And listen very carefully, as he also shares a secret about a change that is likely coming soon to one of his Walt Disney World attractions.

If you have any time left after listening to WDW Radio, there’s a wealth of other great podcasts on the list, in categories ranging from Business to Gaming to Education. Or if you simply can’t get enough Mongello, he’s a frequent co-host on WDW Today. (And no, I’m not just sending you there because they plugged my blog this week . . . I’m also sending you there because yesterday’s episode was wonderfully weird. Hey Matt Hochberg, you might want to drag yourself out of your sickbed soon, those guys are going off the deep end without you!)

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