Thursday, October 07, 2010

Disney and the Copyright Police

That Donald Duck remix cartoon also reminded me of something I don't think I've mentioned before: despite its reputation as an extreme copyright hawk -- there's a reason "Disney lawyer" is a term all its own -- Disney probably cracks down less on YouTube postings of its classic material than almost any other company.

I won't link to examples for fear of jinxing it, but there are clips of Disney cartoons, or songs from Disney animated features, that were uploaded soon after YouTube got popular and are still there, years later. There are some that have gotten pulled, I'm sure; recent material quite rightly gets a harder time, and not all classic clips stay up forever -- though some of them may be due to account deletion (from other things that got pulled) rather than Disney complaints. It may be that they've done what other companies do and simply arranged to get YouTube to give them a piece of the ad revenue in exchange for keeping those clips up. I don't know the details, though I'm going to try and find out.

But if you compare it to Warner Brothers, it's a whole different thing: Warners is constantly cracking down on classic cartoon uploads, taking them down almost every time they appear. The few that are still there are exceptions, clips that WB hasn't noticed yet for some reason or another, or public domain cartoons. Disney either has a laissez-faire attitude about classics on YouTube, or just doesn't have a system in place for taking the stuff down.

Whether this is a conscious Disney policy or not, you'll be unsurprised to hear that I think it's a good policy. As I've complained many times, by taking its classic cartoons off YouTube, Warner Brothers cuts off its best hope of introducing young people to these films; they're constantly trying to figure out how to rebuild the Looney Tunes brand, but cracking down on uploads that get hundreds of thousands of views for these characters. Whereas kids who want to see Donald Duck can see him all over YouTube; there are some real Donald Duck cartoon uploads with millions of hits. That's got to be good for Disney's branding and marketing, even if it's not legal.

6 comments:

Mr. Semaj said...

Warner Bros' and Viacom's take-away policies are ironic, in the sense that they're wasting a LOT of money on projects that people may not be at all interested in, as well as hopeless lawsuits.

Whether or not Disney is actually allowing it, they are making a very wise choice to NOT mess with a good thing. And hey, it gives Disney fans who can't afford the DVD purchases a friendly alternative to Hanna Montana, among other programs with limited appeal.

MuffMacGuff said...

It's really the same problem that Harold Lloyd had, which is why he's not as famous today as Chaplin or Keaton - more exposure for your work is an almost unmitiged good thing.

E Lawrence said...

I admit I was astonished to find the remainder of certain 90s series on Youtube, after Disney stopped releasing the DVDs (again, no examples, no jinxing!) - it meant I could complete my collection until such time as Disney chooses to release the final episodes.

I also found a certain sci-fi Daffy Duck vehicle on there, much to my joy, since as far as I can tell Warners have never released any DVDs and in my country it's never aired outside of satellite / cable TV. Should they ever release the DVDs, I'll definitely be ordering them.

Ricardo Cantoral said...

"they're constantly trying to figure out how to rebuild the Looney Tunes brand"

And god knows how much money they waste trying to do so. Everytime one of their crappy revivals fail, they go back and figure out how to market the old classics. They should just leave the damn things on the internet.

Thad said...

The MGM and Fleischer/Famous cartoons that are owned by Time Warner have been up on YouTube forever too (just about every single one of them), which even further complicates the dilemma. I've been saying for years this bloated corporation has had it in for Bugs Bunny and his pals, and all I keep finding is more and more proof.

Martin Juneau said...

What is sad about Warner/Viacom is they screw their catalog off of YouTube for preserved their heirs and refuse that a young generation can recognise Bugs Bunny or the Terrytoons. Disney is a bit more smooth on this.

Needless to say, the only Looney Tunes posts which seems to be upload is often the dubbed versions. Not the original ones.