Last week we were talking about the issue of copyright morphing into trademark. Well, how about public domain morphing into copyright, and then trademark?
Well, garsh, kids, call me Goofy but — who is the “true Snow White“? This website wants the world to know she’s not something who was invented by that rat Walt Disney but rather by that charming Teutonic duo, the Brothers Grimm:
Here’s the story, according to Harald Walter Azmann, the man behind The True Snow White — a book, available as translated from the German (it’s not exactly clear from the website, actually, that there’s a book in here) and upcoming film (I think?).
Azmann describes this as the authentic, old-school, alternative and very un-Disney Snow White, and is unsurprisingly getting static from Disney on the IP front. Here’s the core of his plea to us Prince Charmings (or is it dwarves?):
In today’s global society, the world keeps moving closer together while unbridled mega corporations still seem to think they own it all. And in a way we have gotten used to them. But who would have expected a legendary benefactor of universal human values like Disney to engage in the sort of patently unfair business practices we have seen over the years?
Consider, for example, Disney’s relentless activities concerning works in the public domain, that marvelous treasure trove of the collective human experience. Previously, fifty years after the death of its author, an original work would become a resource available for anyone who wished to adapt, draw on or build upon it. It’s a brilliant system that opens up the great works of humanity to the next generation of artists and audiences.
Yet despite having been one of its greatest beneficiaries and generating tremendous profits since the early 1920s, Disney seeks to keep its own creations from entering the public domain for as long as possible, successfully lobbying U.S. Congress in the 1990s to extend the term of copyright to the life of the author plus 70 years, a campaign that resulted in the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), or “Mickey Mouse Protection Act”.
And as if The Walt Disney Company’s astonishing ability to influence U.S. and even international legislation were not enough, its ongoing attempts to turn public domain characters into Disney property result in nothing less than Disney’s exclusive right to use them.
Okay, well, there’s his plea. It’s not as if the Wicked Stepmother is poisoning all that many apples out there — lookie here, just a little Googling and I found this — a new movie focusing on the grimmer aspect of our ivory-toned heroine:
The Brothers Grimm: Snow White is more like a dark twist on the fairy tale. The new version will take an “edgy” and comedic look at the original Brothers Grimm story. Brett Ratner promises a departure from the Disney version of the film. This is not your grandfather’s Snow White. His dwarves were miners, and here they are robbers. There is also a dragon that was in the original folk tale… its edgy and there is more comedy. The original, made for its time, was soft compared to what this is going to be.
But Mr. Azmann’s point is well taken, and a topic we like to take in around here. Perhaps, some day, his prince will come.