Elon Musk backs GOP bid to strip Disney of Mickey Mouse copyright

Elon Musk appeared to voice his support for a Republican senator’s efforts to strip Walt Disney of its copyright to its iconic Mickey Mouse mascot.

Musk took to Twitter on Thursday in response to a news story about legislation proposed by US Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) that would limit Disney’s copyright protection over Mickey Mouse to the 56 years originally granted the company.

“Current copyright law in general goes absurdly far beyond protecting the original creator,” Musk tweeted on Thursday.

Musk then commented that an “overzealous” DMCA — the Digital Millennium Copyright Act — “is a plague on humanity.”

It wasn’t immediately clear why Musk chose to weigh in on the dispute.

The DMCA is a law passed by the US government in 1998. It offers creators of original content on the internet considerable protection from having their work distributed without consent.

Critics of the DMCA say it stifles the free flow of information on the internet by allowing intellectual property owners to order the removal of content even in instances where there are no copyright violations.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk appeared to back efforts by a top Republican senator to strip The Walt Disney Co. of its copyright to Mickey Mouse.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) proposed a bill that would retroactively remove Disney’s copyright protections over Mickey Mouse.

Hawley’s proposed legislation, the Copyright Clause Restoration Act, would retroactively apply to Disney’s copyright to the original design of Mickey Mouse, who was first introduced nearly a century ago in the 1928 release of the 8-minute-long animated film “Steamboat Willie.”

At the time “Steamboat Willie” was released, Disney’s copyright for Mickey Mouse was protected for 56 years.

When the copyright was about to expire in 1984, Disney lobbied the federal government to pass the Copyright Act of 1976, which extended protections for 75 years.

If passed into law, Disney would retroactively lose copyright to the Mickey Mouse character first introduced in the 1928 animated film “Steamboat Willie.”

In 1998, Disney again lobbied for an extension on its copyright, and the federal government obliged, granting it copyright ownership for 95 years.

The latest copyright reform is due to expire in 2024, and top GOP officials have stated they will not support another extension of copyright protections.

Even if the Mickey Mouse from “Steamboat Willie” enters the public domain, Disney still holds the copyright for other versions of the character, including sorcerer Mickey from the film “Fantasia.”

Disney angered Republicans by opposing a Florida law that banned offering sexual orientation and gender identity education before the fourth grade.

“The age of Republican handouts to Big Business is over,” Hawley said in a statement. “Thanks to special copyright protections from Congress, woke corporations like Disney have earned billions while increasingly pandering to woke activists.”

“It’s time to take away Disney’s special privileges and open up a new era of creativity and innovation.”

Hawley’s proposal comes just weeks after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a measure that will strip Disney of its autonomous, self-governing status over its theme parks and resorts in and around Orlando.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last month moved to strip Disney of its self-governing status in Orlando.
Walt Disney Resorts via Getty Im

DeSantis signed the legislation after Disney came out in opposition to the Parental Rights in Education Law, which critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The law bars gender identity or sexual orientation education for children before they reach fourth grade.

Musk announced on Friday that his $44 billion takeover of Twitter was on hold pending clarifications about the presence of bots on the site.