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Letter from Rep. Jim Banks Highlights How Disney Picked a Very Bad Time to Oppose Parental Rights Bill

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

After wading itself into opposing Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act, and pushing a particularly woke LGBT agenda, Disney World may be in a heap of trouble. As Julio covered earlier on Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) mentioned the idea during a Thursday press conference about repealing a state law that allows Disney to govern itself. Congress may be getting involved in other ways, too, to hold the company accountable.


During a Thursday night Fox News appearance on "The Ingraham Angle" alongside Christopher Rufo, Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) discussed a letter he had sent to Disney CEO Bob Chapek. This includes a reminder that "Disney loses its Mickey Mouse copyright on January 1, 2024." To renew it, as Congress has stepped in to do multiple times, is not something the congressman can support.

"Given Disney’s continued work with a Communist Chinese regime that does not respect human rights or U.S. intellectual property and given your desire to influence young children with sexual material inappropriate for their age, I will not support further extensions applicable to your copyrights, which should become public domain," Rep. Banks wrote in his letter.

Speaking to Laura Ingraham, Rep. Banks said "this is probably a long time coming," pointing out "at the end of the day we take our kids to Disney World for family vacation, not indoctrination." Ingraham suggested that "they just take it for granted that they're going to have their copyrights extended forever," also adding that "I think Congress has to start examining this across the board for a lot of companies."

The letter had also called out Disney for how it "has sought to expand business in China by kowtowing to its Communist regime," leading to a closeness with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Disney even filmed its 2020 film "Mulan" in Xinjiang province, where the genocide and forced slave labor against Uyghur Muslims is taking place. To add insult to injury, Disney gave a special thanks to the local CCP authorities in the movie credits. Rep. Banks also told Ingraham that he hadn't seen Disney attack a Chinese law.


According to disturbing insight from a Disney employee, who goes by the pseudonym of Ethan L. Clay in a Quillete article that was published on Tuesday, Disney’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion department, "expanded by an astonishing 633 percent in 2019–21, at the same time that nearly every other department was contracting by 25–75 percent." Rep. Banks went on to write in his letter that such information "suggests Disney is purposefully influencing small children with its political and sexual agenda."

As Rufo tweeted about and Katie covered on Wednesday, Disney corporate president Karey Burke spoke of having a transgender child and a pansexual child and said she supports having "many, many, many LGBTQIA characters in our stories" and wants a minimum of 50 percent of characters to be LGBTQIA and racial minorities. Burke is mentioned in Rep. Banks' letter as well. 


Banks' letter highlights Disney's wading into opposing the Parental Rights in Education Act, which translates to a support of an indoctrination of children too young to discuss topics involving gender identity and sexual orientation with, to be sure. It also illustrates Disney's entitlement, though.

"The Constitution gives Congress the authority to determine the length of time to protect copyrights. Further, it explicitly states that copyrights may not be permanent. Yet Disney’s long history of lobbying on this issue suggests that is its goal," Banks' letter tellingly notes.

While Disney's copyright from Mickey Mouse was initially to be protected until 1984, Congress in 1976 amended the law to extend the copyright until 2003, thanks to lobbying from Disney. Congress extended the copyright yet again in 1998 with the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act, also known as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act.

On New Year's Day 2019, Timothy B. Lee wrote a fascinating deep-dive piece for Ars Technica about what it will look like when Mickey Mouse is under public domain. His piece mentioned:

The expiration of copyrights for characters like Mickey Mouse and Batman will raise tricky new legal questions. After 2024, Disney won't have any copyright protection for Mickey's original incarnation. But Disney will still own copyrights for later incarnations of the character—and it will also own Mickey-related trademarks.

James Grimmelmann, a copyright scholar at Cornell Law School, tells Ars that this is an uncharted area of law because licensing practices for modern characters are "so much more intensive and so much more comprehensive now" than in the 1920s and 1930s. "We never had megacharacters in the same way" prior to the 1920s, he says.


In a Disney Food Blog post from February 2021, Quincy Stanford also addressed the issue, with original emphasis:

According to NOVA South Eastern University, “Disney has also obtained 19 different trademark registrations for the words “Mickey Mouse,” including live-action and animated television shows, cartoon strips, comic books, theme parks, and computer games.

Disney also has trademark registrations for Mickey’s visual appearance for animated and live-action motion picture films.” The NOVA article notes that Disney’s Trademark is possibly more for the Steamboat Willie version of Mickey than the modern Mickey. So basically, Disney isn’t handing over Mickey to the public domain without a fight. And they’ve done just about everything they can to protect one of their most valuable assets.

Polls show that the bill, which DeSantis signed into law this week, has support from Floridians, even and including Democrats. Woke corporations, especially Disney, picked the wrong time to mess with parents and their allies in Congress and at the state level, especially if they're looking to continue to receive special treatment.

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