Elon Musk gives his two cents on Disney’s copyright issues

Since his offer to acquire Twitter was accepted by the social media company’s board, Elon Musk has given his two cents on several issues, from the war in Ukraine to woke politics and lately, to Disney’s copyright issues. 

In a recent tweet, Elon Musk took a side in the somewhat controversial debate on the protection of authors’ and creators’ rights. Musk also spoke about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which addresses issues between copyright and online content.

Musk’s comments came as a response to news about US senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo), who recently introduced a bill designed to strip Disney of special copyright protections. If Hawley’s bill passes, Disney’s most famous character, Mickey Mouse — specifically his iteration in the 1928 short film Steamboat Willie — would enter the public domain

Weighing in on the issue, Musk stated that copyright law has gone far beyond just protecting a work’s original creator. He also shared some sharp thoughts on “overzealous DMCA.”

“Current copyright law in general goes absurdly far beyond protecting the original creator. Overzealous DMCA is a plague on humanity,” Musk wrote. 

Musk’s tweets suggest that he, at least to a certain degree, supports the idea of reducing copyright terms. 

Disney was definitely a beneficiary of extended copyright terms. When the 1928 Mickey Mouse short film was initially released, the character was protected for 56 years. When this copyright was about to expire in 1984, however, Disney lobbied the federal government, extending protections for Steamboat Willie Mickey for 75 years. More lobbying in later years ultimately extended Disney’s copyright to the character to 95 years, which would expire in 2024. 

While Disney may lose the copyright to Mickey Mouse’s Steamboat Willie iteration, however, this does not mean to say that other versions of the popular character will automatically enter the public domain. Disney, for example, still holds copyrights for other versions of the character, such as “Sorcerer Mickey” from the film Fantasia.

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