The Licensing Lion

We have written in the past about the control that a copyright owner has over the subject of his or her copyright. However, it seems some people aren’t paying attention to the message that they can’t simply use (and especially charge money for) other people’s works without permission.

In this case linked to above, there is some controversy about Disney charging an elementary school’s PTA $250.00 to show the 2019 version of The Lion King at a fundraiser. It seems easy to assign blame to “big, bad Disney.” The school was trying to raise money for an elementary school. The copy of the movie was already purchased. And, really, does Disney need another $250.00? In fact, even Disney’s CEO apologized.

But, what if it wasn’t Disney? What if it was a local artist and an independent film? Now that $250.00 could mean a lot more. Or, what if the organization showing it was raising money for something less wholesome than a public school? It stops feeling so easy to say that the PTA shouldn’t have to pay.

I’m not in the habit of defending giant corporations or beating up school fundraisers. But, I do want to defend artists’ rights to control their works. Copyright law has been around a long time and is built to allow artists to control their works (and maybe even make money from them). When an artist can control who distributes and shows its works, they can control the message. They can also sometimes get paid. If others can publish the work with no money going to the artist, how is the artist going to be able to afford to continue to create?

So, yes, Disney will survive without this licensing fee, but plenty of smaller studios and artists can’t. That means that I beg of you to PLEASE not use things without permission.

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