Atulya Dora-Laskey Feature National Nov 18, 2019 Thoughts/Opinions Uncategorized

The mouse and the monopoly


Graphic by MEREK ALAM

Last Tuesday, Disney officially launched their Disney + streaming service. An initially impressive subscription-based service that allows you to watch all the nostalgic Disney works from your childhood along with all the current Marvel and Star Wars movies, along with some new original additions such as The Mandalorian and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. I’m here to predictably tell you why this is actually bad upon closer inspection.

One might argue that Disney + is good because it gives people another chance to relieve their younger days by watching classic Disney shows like The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Kim Possible, Hannah Montana and even The Simpsons. Even more importantly, Disney + provides a platform to watch older classics such as Fantasia, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin so the younger generation can properly appreciate classics of the past.

I argue that you shouldn’t even need Disney + to watch these at all.

When the United States Copyright Act was first passed, copyrights only lasted about 14 years. This was amended over time, and soon the original author could file an appeal to extend it. By the time the first every Mickey Mouse cartoon emerged, “Steamboat Willy,” copyright had been extended to 56 years (not including renewal). This would not do for Disney, who began immediately pressuring Congress to extend this. In 1976 Congress passed new copyright terms that gave copyright protections for an author’s entire life as well as an additional 50 years. Then, when the deadline for Mickey’s copyright got dangerously close again, Disney pushed Congress to pass the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act which gave corporate-owned works up to 120 years of copyright protection and free reign to sue anyone who hosts or creates something similar.

In addition, Disney has slowly formed a growing monopoly and makes up near 40 percent of all U.S. box office sales. It’s not creatively or democratically healthy to have so many creative works coming out of one corporation. When Disney once again wants more legislative changes to be made in favor of the corporation, they will leverage your love for their unfairly held properties in order to instill in you actual political opinions.

If the government attempts to increase tax margins and it affects Disney shareholders, you’ll get Marvel movies where Peter Parker must stop an evil government from unjustly taxing Tony Stark’s estate. If Disney workers begin fighting for employee rights, you’ll have a Star Wars sequence where Yoda’s ghost explains to disgruntled cantina workers how unions are actually bad for them. If Congress tries to break up monopolies, they will announce a Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Wars crossover movie so you personally rally for Disney to hold on to their copyrights. Occasionally, a LGBT+ subplot will be added into an animated movie so they still seem “progressive,” but the subplot won’t be too heavily emphasized. After all, Disney will need to edit it out so they can still make money by showing it in China.

Disney is playing a dangerous game. As people realize more and more that the company is solely interested in making money, or that it is coming dangerously close to producing a majority of the art and political messages for our society, they might want to monetarily support it as little as possible. They might install a VPN so they can’t be tracked by their internet service provider or college wi-fi. They might look into how or ask a friend to download these shows and movies through torrents so they can keep these nostalgic works on their computers offline or delete them when they’re finished. They might get into seeding, hostin, and uploading art so everyone can view them without the stranglehold of a monopoly dictating the monthly terms of enjoyment.

Alternatively, they might just use their grandmother’s login.

Regardless, it is important to remember these corporations are never your friend, no matter the friendly content they shove in your face and attempt to hold on to forever. Creative works of our childhood should belong to everyone, not merely the Mouse trying to profit off us.

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