Category Archives: Media Policy

Mickey Mouse’s Copyright: When Will the Magic End?

It should come as no surprise that the Walt Disney Company has feverishly tried and succeeded in keeping their signature Mickey Mouse out of the public domain. They have done so by influencing Congress to extend the Copyright Laws, and why wouldn’t they? Mickey Mouse has become so iconic that to lose control of him would translate to lost revenue. But don’t fret about this, of course Disney has a few tricks up its sleeve.

steamboat-willie-mickey-mouseIt all started with the Mickey that appears in the 1928 animated short, Steamboat Willie. His copyright was set to expire in 1984; 56 years of copyright protection was the law then. In 1976, Mickey was saved by Congress, which said that works were protected for the author’s life plus 50 years after that. Walt Disney had passed on by this time; he died in 1966. Conveniently, works published before this 1976 extension would be eligible for an additional 19 years of protection since they would have expired before the law was put into effect.

Flash forward to the 1990s… Disney, and other companies began lobbying for yet another extension, because Mickey is nearing his expiration date of 2003. What corporations wanted, not just Disney, was the same extension of 20 years that Europe had granted to its authors in 1993. So now we are at life plus 70 years for a copyright after the extension (the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act) was signed by Bill Clinton in 1998. This now puts Mickey Mouse expiring at about the year 2024.

For more on the copyrights around Mickey Mouse click here.

What is Disney to do? They can’t just sit by the way side and let Mickey fall into the public domain, but what choice do they have? They may try to rally support for another copyright extension or they can use a loophole they have found in the wonderful world of trademarks. “Trademark law protects words, phrases and symbols used to identify the source of the products or services.” (Carlisle, 2014). These laws could potentially prevent anyone from using Mickey Mouse as they please.

It could be argued that this is completely unfair. The trademark would basically grant eternal protection to the Walt Disney Company over Mickey Mouse. So what’s stopping Disney from doing this to every creative piece they own?

The answer is that most characters that are formerly copyrighted can be trademarked. According to law.cornell.edu, two basic requirements need to be met in order for an item to be granted a trademark. The item “must be in use in commerce and it must be distinctive.” Additionally, the character must also have “obtained ‘secondary meaning” to be granted eternal protection within the public domain. Basically secondary meaning is when someone sees the character they must be able to associate it with the source immediately.

So naturally Disney has been slapping Mickey on just about anything to do with the Walt Disney Company, and it has worked. Mickey Mouse has a reported “worldwide brand awareness of 97%”, according to an article on PRICECONOMICS. Don’t you see Mickey and immediately say or think Disney?

If you need more proof that this is actually real just read this court ruling: “A character deemed an artistic creation deserving copyright protection…may also serve to identify the creator, thus meriting protection under theories of trademark and unfair competition.” (Carlisle, 2014).

Thus far Disney has 19 different trademarks for Mickey Mouse including for his appearance and films. This is only feasible because Walt Disney was the original creator of Mickey Mouse. If he had just bought the rights to Mickey only the changes the company made to him after that would be protected.

mickey mouse          mickey mouse   mickey mouse

Mickey Mouse seems to be something special which, of course, we knew already. So is it fair that Disney gets to keep their control over Mickey for eternity? I think yes, it is fair. Let me explain why.

Mickey Mouse is too iconic to lose. Not only would a change to his image be devastating to the company, but also to my memories. I grew up knowing that Mickey Mouse meant Walt Disney and I can bet with almost certainty that you did too.

Mickey Mouse is and will forever be the Walt Disney Company. He holds their values and everything they stand for as a corporation. If it was any other character I would be saying that this use of trademarks will be an overreach of power, but not with Mickey.

Do you feel that no one should be able to obtain or use trademarks in this manner?

Do trademarks inhibit fair use?

Is there another iconic character that you feel should also be given the same protection as Mickey Mouse?

Piper Davis

“New” Advertiser-Friendly Policy: Is YouTube Taking Away Freedom of Speech?

It all started on Wednesday August 31, 2016. The world was in shock. People lashed out on twitter and other forms of social media saying that YouTube is now censoring YouTubers, violating and taking away freedom of speech. The hashtag #YouTubeIsOverParty was trending worldwide by the following day as everyone proclaimed this was the end of YouTube.

youtubeSo what happened? On Wednesday August 31, 2016, YouTubers, started receiving emails about their videos being demonetized, meaning they would not earn any money from their videos. Famous YouTuber Philip DeFranco (with 4 million subscribers!) made a video about this topic that received almost over 6 million views and started the hashtag #YouTubeIsOverParty. By September 1st, both the video and the hashtag were trending worldwide.

Philip DeFranco’s YouTube video: “YouTube Is Shutting Down My Channel and I’m Not Sure What To Do”

DeFranco explained in his video that YouTube released a “new” advertiser friendly policy which explained what content would cause a video to get demonetized. DeFranco wasn’t the only YouTuber affected by this. He states in his videos that other content creators on YouTube received emails about some of their videos being demonetized. This also started a wave of YouTube videos with titles such as “I’m Quitting YouTube” or “YouTube is Dead”.

What content is deemed “advertiser un-friendly” is also an issue. Many YouTubers and their audience argued this is a form of censorship, as swearing and sexual humor can get videos demonetized. One of the most controversial topics however, deemed inappropriate for advertising is: “controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown.”

One million subscribers YouTuber Einshine argues in his video “YouTube is Making me Quit, Time to get a New Job?” that a previous video he made regarding his experience as a victim of the 3/11 Japan Earthquake in which he stated that all money he gained from ads in that video would be donated to charity to help Japan after the tragedy can be demonetized following the “new” guidelines.

Another argument made by YouTubers that this policy is going against freedom of speech, is that some YouTubers comment on or include news in their videos and therefore show violent or sensitive subjects even though it is not their own content and could still be penalized for it.

youtube policy
YouTube’s Advertiser-friendly content guidelines

YouTube has responded by stating that these guidelines are not new. In fact, YouTube has been demonetizing content deemed “not advertiser-friendly” since 2013. So what changed? According to YouTube, they’ve updated their notifications system. This means that before, YouTubers would get their videos demonetized but would not be aware of it, now they will receive an email about it.

YouTube also has an appeal system where YouTubers can make a request to get their videos re-monetized. While this works for some, others have had their appeal denied, keeping their videos demonetized.  DeFranco argues in his video “YouTube Responded, But It Gets Even More Confusing…” that this hurts smaller YouTubers that depend on the initial views to make their living. By having a video demonetized as soon as it’s posted, the YouTuber is losing the revenue opportunity while the initial views come pouring in as it takes time for the appeal to take affect.

I do believe YouTube is using a form of censorship, but I do not think YouTube is taking away freedom of speech. Many YouTubers have successfully been appealed their. Even if YouTubers aren’t getting money from their videos, their content is still accessible for everyone to see.

YouTube is a private company and they are well within their rights to implement these guidelines. After all, the content shown on their website represents and reflects them as well as the advertisers.

I believe that there is a communication problem between YouTube and its content creators. I think YouTube is finally taking a good step in updating their notification program but this could have been done much sooner. A solution to YouTubers losing money could be for YouTube to communicate quicker and more directly with YouTubers, letting them know before their content is demonetized allowing them to make an appeal while still making revenue off their views.

What do you think? Is YouTube violating freedom of speech or creating a form of censorship? Considering this policy isn’t new, what has changed now that content creators on YouTube are aware of this policy? Considering ad-blockers, do you think this issue is even relevant?

Clara Tosi

FCC’s Wheeler Pitches Spectrum Auction to Broadcasters: But Should They Cash In?

Chairman Tom Wheeler opened his keynote address to the 2015 National Association of Broadcasters with nothing but praise and admiration for their profession, stating that they (broadcasters) offer their audiences a unique product that no other current emerging platform can give: local news and information.

Tom WheelerWheeler went on to describe his recent experience with various media outlets during the storms that rocked the north east this winter. “I used my weather channel app on my phone regularly,” Wheeler admitted. “But when I wanted information that really matters, when I wanted to find out what the real skinny was that was going to affect my life, I went to my local broadcasters.” He then closed his opening remarks of praise by pointing how the broadcasters “put themselves in danger” to service their community in the midst of the storm.

This was a lead in to his quick pitch at the NAB Show for the upcoming spectrum auction. In this spectrum auction, the FCC would sell licenses to transmit signals over specific bands of the electromagnetic spectrum to wireless providers, and then share the profits with broadcasters who are the current holders of the spectrum.

But new details regarding the forthcoming spectrum auction were surprisingly thin. Wheeler mentioned it will take place in early 2016, with the FCC accepting applications as early as this fall, and that they want to make it “more accommodating” for broadcasters.

SmartphoneWhat struck me as both odd and alarming was the absence of constructive criticism directed towards the traditional methods of broadcasting (both in Wheeler’s speech and throughout the entire show). Now, this isn’t to say there weren’t talks regarding the changing media landscape, but the topic of the potential industry-saving innovation from broadcasters (particularly television) were sparse. And, whatever discussion there was regarding the issues presented an array of underwhelming, short-term solutions.

There is no denying the truth that, as Chairman Wheeler pointed out, OTT services are beating out cable, and that consumers are pursuing alternatives to broadcast TV. But the question constantly on my mind is: how can broadcasters remain relevant well into the 21st century? And perhaps more important for broadcasters to explore, what role, if any, could this currently owned spectrum play in their reinvention?

Trends in media consumption changed radically last year, with digital viewing increasing at an impressive rate. According to a 2014 Nielsen report,  growth for digital viewing rose 53% for individuals ages 18 to 43 over the past year. In fact, this high growth of digital viewing is even more pronounced for older demographics with an 85.7% rise in 35 to 49 year olds and a 72.7% rise in 50 to 60 year olds. TV, on the other hand, saw a 4.2% average drop in adult screen use during the past year.

It is true this buyout of spectrum will potentially serve as a life preserver for a struggling broadcast station. But it also could, in my opinion, prematurely rule out any further advancement that may have otherwise utilized that spectrum (potential 4k and 3D capabilities being one).

As Wheeler described it, the spectrum auction is “a once in a lifetime, risk free opportunity to expand your business model on someone else’s dime.” But what if that business model requires that same spectrum to advance forward? To prematurely classify the auction as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” that would leave our wireless future in the fate of one obscure auction with a commodity is so abstract and unpredictable, should come across as frightening to broadcasters. It’s just too early to call.

TV wastelandIt is true this is not for me to decide. It’s for the each owner of spectrum to decide, given their unique circumstances. As a consumer and an academic observer I am highly interested in seeing potential expansion of broadcasting well beyond its conventional boundaries. I just hope that broadcasters retain an open mind in regards to the possibilities of “broadcasting” in the future, whatever that may look like. They need to find the courage to innovate, or they may perish.

Aaron Sprengeler

Tom Wheeler and Net Neutrality

Tom Wheeler is the 31st chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. He has held the position since November 2013, and arguably the biggest issue the FCC has faced in this time is over whether to preserve Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality has been in the news a lot in the last few years, and it has become one of those phrases that people throw around. But what exactly is it?

Net Neutrality CartoonNet Neutrality is the principle that information sent across the Internet must be treated equally, or neutrally. Access to some data should not be prioritized over other data. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should not be able to charge certain companies more to transmit their data, and the ISPs should not be able to block any content or data either. Basically, Net Neutrality is what it sounds like: an open and neutral Internet.

What the ISPs would like to do is charge certain companies more to access an internet “fast lane” that would allow that company’s clients, users or subscribers faster download times for the data sent over those “fast lanes.” If a company was unwilling or unable to pay these extra charges their data would be sent at a slower speed making download times longer. The ISP’s would also like to be able to block certain content, say person-to-person torrent sharing sites like The Pirate Bay, from being accessed by their clients.

There was much debate as to whether or not the FCC would support net neutrality or if they would support the business interests of the ISPs. Chairman Tom Wheeler, a former cable company lobbyist, was thought not to support net neutrality; so many people thought the FCC would also not support it.

Net NeutralityHowever, on February 26, 2015 the FCC declared that they would classify the Internet as a telecommunications service instead of an information service. This will place it under the protections of the Communication Act of 1934 and the Telecommunication Act of 1996. They published a large document outlining the new rules for the broadcast of the internet, and Chairman Wheeler wrote a blog post on the FCC website saying, “the FCC today has taken an important step that should reassure consumers, innovators and the financial markets about the broadband future of our nation.”

And the Internet rejoiced! Well, except for Jeb Bush. And Fox News. And Rush Limbaugh. These technological masterminds are all very worried that the new regulations will staunch growth in the industry because what sort of company would want to fund expansion if they knew they weren’t going to be able to gouge their current customers and double charge the content companies?

What sort of companies indeed. Chairman Wheeler writes from his blog again, “The ISPs’ consumer revenue streams tomorrow will be the same as they were yesterday. I believe this is why Sprint, T-Mobile, Frontier Communications, and Google Fiber, along with hundreds of smaller phone company ISPs have said they would continue to invest under the Commission’s modern regulatory approach.”

Will these new rules indeed inhibit development by our ISPs or, can we, as Chairman Wheeler thinks, look forward to, “a broadband future of investment and expansion?” Will these rules stand? For now, it seems so.

Sommer Darland

Turning Point in Tragedy: Celebrity Culture and Mental Illness

Tortured. Hanged.

Got your attention, didn’t it? But for the wrong reasons.

With no concern for their audience, news media outlets used unnecessary details to sensationalize the sudden death of Robin Williams at age 63. Headlines were littered with buzzwords to catch attention. With no consideration for the impact that mental illness can have on an individual, people looked down on his actions and called him names. For example, Fox News anchor Sam Shepard is quoted on the situation, saying, “…And yet, something inside you is so horrible or you’re such a coward or whatever the reason that you decide that you have to end it…” And, shown below, the Daily News sported this headline:

Media1Unfortunately, there are more poor examples than these. Buzzfeed and Yahoo! News noticed that something wasn’t right here.

Thankfully, much of the media today has taken some sensitivity training. The media has become more aware of their audience when reporting this kind of news. For example, the New York Village Voice shared their own opinion (shown above) on how to properly report this event.

But why does this matter?

When suicide is reported in a shining light, it encourages copycat behavior. One unnecessary tragedy has the power to spiral in to many more thanks to our celebrity centered culture. Many have noticed we need a change. “There’s a very careful line they need to walk so as to not seem exploitive of a terrible situation; but at the same time, it is a national teachable moment that shouldn’t be ignored.” (Lisa Kovitz, Eldman PR Firm.) Turning tragedy in to an educational experience gives celebrity culture the advantage.

Also, when the media poorly reports mental illness, it can be harmful to those advocating for the cause. Organizations such as To Write Love on Her Arms have a vision to eliminate the stigma against mental illness and encourage those who are battling to keep fighting. On our own campus, there is a University Chapter of this organization. When the media degrades those who have suffered, their audiences will degrade those individuals as well and advocacy organizations suffer.

But now, media outlets now have a chance to reform. Samaritans in the UK shared some new helpful guidelines on reporting suicide and mental illness:

Media2Celebrities of all types tweeted about the tragedy, sharing positive memories of Robin Williams. Late night talk show hosts, such as Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon, took the time to remember the life that was lost. The power of celebrity culture, in this case, was used for good. We as fans of Robin Williams were all brought together to recognize that depression and mental illness is a very real problem.

News media outlets promoted awareness as well. Many articles ended on a positive note and encouraged readers to get help if they find themselves in a similar situation. And, some news outlets took the extra step of sharing articles solely on how to get help, such as The Today Show and WOWT Omaha.

Of the impact this event has made, the stigma against mental illness is starting to decrease. It is unfortunate that it took the loss of a very influential man for people to understand just how serious it can be. People can recognize that having a mental illness is not a sign of weakness and that it is okay to get help.

Sammie Mallow

Are You Ready To Kinect…with an Interactive Store Display?

There have been plenty of times where you find yourself distracted in shopping malls or stores. They usually get your attention by their giant posters, fresh styles, flashy art, and delicious smells. Is that really enough in our society? Our lives are much different now and we have to think bigger than the bottom line that we are used to. The tool that is driving this new technology era for window displays would have to be the Kinect for Windows. What are the advantages? The Kinect is used mainly for Xbox 360, Xbox One gaming consoles, and Windows PC. My main focus is on Windows PC, because the Kinect + the PC is more about helping society become more efficient than it is to be for our entertainment.

Retail stores use the Kinect to make an “interactive” display that grabs window shoppers attention and places them into a whole different connection. They let shoppers become part of the brand and interact with their product. A good example is the Nike window display which measures how well you jump compared to professional athlete records. There is no better way than to support athletics and combine it with the audience. The setup has an RGB camera, depth sensor, voice and facial recognition. The Depth sensor has an infrared laser (body heat) and monochrome depth sensor that captures 3D data under any ambient light, which provides 2,048 levels of sensitivity. The Kinect can reach up to 6 skeletons and locate 25 different joints including fingers. The knowledge for this kind of medium prepares us for newer technology.  The different designs for interactive window displays can cost you a pretty penny, but is it worth it? Nike seems to think so as they’ve stated, “Retailers and office spaces are attracting and connecting with customers creatively.”

There are other ways besides an attractivekinect design that will lure in the audience members, such as retail stores, hospitals, manufacture’s, education, etc. There are two companies that really put the Kinect to use. GestSure, allows surgeons to use hand motions to study a patient’s medical images such as, X-rays, MRI’s, and CT’s. They use it without having to manipulate the images and having to wait for prints. At EPIC Machine Vision they see the Kinect to be very useful. The manufacturer, NUI (Biometric natural user interface), identifies one person to log onto a machine and will ignore other workers around him. The device is used by gestures, voice commands, and will shut down if the worker leaves on break.

What we can take away from this is that the Kinect for Windows could be opening up a new revolution to advertise, sell, help, and create new items. Do you think the Kinect for Windows is worth investing into your business? If so, what do you think would be the benefits? If not, what concerns would you have for this product?

Sara Clark