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Anyway. Yeah, Walt Disney created me, but he didn't create me out of nothing. Look at my skin. Look at my face. Look at this glove. I'm straight out of the minstrel show tradition—which makes this whole "ownership" business stick in my craw even more.
I'm also Buster Keaton.
A: My first cartoon short, Steamboat Willie, was a direct parody of Keaton's movie Steamboat Bill, Jr. On the very first page of the script, it says, "Orchestra starts playing opening verses of Steamboat Bill." I remember what Eldred's lawyer Lawrence Lessig said when he read that: "Try doing a cartoon take-off of one of Disney, Inc.'s latest films with an opening that copies the music."
So yeah, they created me. But they don't want to let other people build on me when they make their own creations, the way they did when I was born. And now I'm locked up for another stinking 20 years! Do you have any idea what it's like to have to greet kids at Disneyland every single day, always smiling, never slipping off for a cigarette?
Q: So what comes next?
A: If the courts won't help us, we can always go back to Congress and try to repeal the Bono Act outright. Doesn't seem likely to happen, but I suppose we should try it.
Beyond that, all I can think of is civil disobedience. Disney says I'm its property, and that any unauthorized use of me is infringement, theft, plagiarism. I say, Don't mourn, plagiarize! Work me into every creative act that you can, and damn the legal consequences! You know, like you're doing right now.
Q: Come again?
A: This interview. It's an unauthorized use of Mickey Mouse, a copyrighted character owned by the Disney Corporation.
Q: This is a parody, Mickey. It's protected by the Fair Use doctrine.
A: So was Air Pirates Funnies, and they still dragged them into court. And it's only gotten worse since then. It's so easy to create and distribute things digitally these days, so the big entertainment combines are in a panic, sending out cease-and-desist letters left and right. Doesn't matter if it's an open-and-shut case of Fair Use—the cost of a court case is disincentive enough.
Q: Hey. This isn't really Mickey Mouse, people. His name is—uh, I think it's Bruce.
A: Sometimes they make a threat, and sometimes they let something slide. You never know what they're gonna go after. But don't let that stop you! Civil disobedience requires courage.
Q: He's not even a mouse. He's some sort of marsupial.