One of Disneys roles was to take fairy tales from Europe and make them into illuminati
versions - such as they did with Snow White. The stories were modified and rewritten. Without
having to come up with original ideas, Disney was able to quickly turn out animated movies with
stories that people were already familiar with.
Ironically, Disney is now a company obssessed with copyright and intellectual property. Despite
owing their entire success to ripping off fairy tales that were in the public domain, they have done
their most to keep their characters out of the public domain.
had the entire framework of our copyright laws changed in order to keep Mickey Mouse out of the
Mickey Mouse is synonymous with copyright term extension, and with good reason. Every time the first Mickey cartoons creep towards the public domain, Disney's powerful lobbyists spring into action, lobbying Congress for a retrospective term-extension on copyright, which means that works that have already been created are awarded longer copyright terms. In the USA, copyright law is supposed to serve an incentive to make new works, and there's no sensible way that getting a longer copyright on something you've already made can provide an incentive to do anything except lobby for more copyright, and sue people who want to make something new out of your creation.
Nevertheless, in 1976 and 1998, the US Congress gave Disney—and everyone else, including the overwhelming majority of absentee proprietors who didn't know or care about any of this—decades of extra copyright on works that already existed. This state of affairs has been lamented at enormous length by people smarter than me, so let's just say that economists, cultural theorists, and copyright scholars are virtually unanimous in viewing retrospective copyright term extension as both absurd and tragic.
Even more ironically, Mickey Mouse is not actually protected by this new copyright law because
Walt Disney and his brother filed the copyright claim incorrectly back when they came up with
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison drafted our copyright laws.
Jefferson wrote about copyright and the issue of intellectual property:
If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.
Jefferson was our first great free expression and First Amendment absolutist. Freedom of expression was a central tenet – really, the central tenet – of Jefferson's creed.
To preserve the freedom of the human mind & freedom of expression and the press, he wrote, every spirit should be ready to devote itself to martyrdom; for as long as we may think as we will, and speak as we think, the condition of mankind will proceed in improvement. . . .
Diffusion of knowledge among the people is the only sure foundation that can be devised for the preservation of freedom and happiness. And then, his now-famous words: Were I faced with a choice between a government without newspapers, and newspapers without government, I would not hesitate for a moment to take the latter."
The first object of government is to leave open to all the avenues to truth, and freedom of expression and freedom of the press are the most effectual means for doing that. The United States, he wrote, will demonstrate to the world the falsehood that freedom of [speech, and] freedom of the press are incompatible with orderly government.
Protecting the freedom of expression was a task of the very highest order, in Jefferson's view, because freedom of expression was a natural right, belonging to all. It is not given to us by law, nor is it derived from law. It is just in the "nature" of things, part of the way the world is constructed, derived not from the laws of Man but "the laws of Nature and of Nature's God": if you bring two human beings together, they will think, and they will attempt to communicate with one another about what they are thinking. They'll do that without any law to help them. Humans communicate with one another not because the law enables them to do so; they communicate with one another because—well, because that's the kind of beings we are, and that is what is in our nature. Law's job is not to enable that communication, but to protect it when it does occur.
Copyright, though, is different. Copyright is what Jefferson called – and I believe he was the first person to point this out and make this distinction — "social law." Copyright does not derive from the nature of things, from the way the world is, or is constructed, because it is in the nature of things that ideas move freely from one person to another. As he memorably put it in an 1813 letter that has become one of the foundational documents for intellectual property law in the US:
If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the "idea." That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe seems to have been particularly and benevolently designed by nature. Ideas are like the air we breathe – incapable of confinement or of exclusive appropriation, and expansible over all space.
The only way to keep an idea to yourself is to . . . well, to keep it to yourself. The moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Once it gets loose, it is like the air we breathe, expansible over all space, incapable of confinement.
And, like fire, ideas don't get "used up" as more people use them: The peculiar character of ideas is that no one possesses an idea the less because others possess more; he who receives an idea from me receives instruction himself without lessening mine, just as he who lights his candle at mine receives light without darkening me.