Everything You Need to Know about the Disney Lawsuit


In today’s episode, I am discussing why small business owners should be concerned by the latest Disney Lawsuit. I will teach you how to obtain legal licensing so you can avoid litigations with big retailers. The laws of copyright and trademarks are unyielding to those who attempt to circumvent the legal outputs available to small businesses interested in selling products of protected images. If you want to venture into this retail space, be sure you are creating products that are either licensed or are unique enough to be differentiated from copyrighted material. This episode will prepare you for the legal ramifications of copyright infringement and how exactly you can avoid receiving a cease and desist letter. 

Key Takeaways:

[3:00] Current federal copyright protects during the lifetime of the author + 75 years

[3:40] Steamboat Willie Mickey’s copyright is about to expire not the Mickey image itself

[5:00] Disney owns the copyright to the silhouette of mickey Mouse ears

[6:00] Unlike a copyright, if a trademark is renewed it can live on forever 

[7:30] Which mouse ears are not infringement on Disney’s copyright or trademark

[9:40] The courts want to ensure the matter is being resolved in good faith 

[11:20] You can legally go through Disney to acquire a license to sell Disney products


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The Legalpreneur Podcast is advertising/marketing material. It is not legal advice. Please consult with your attorney on these topics. Copyright Legalpreneur Inc 2022



Legalprenuer transcript:

Andrea Sager  00:03

Welcome to the Legalprenuer podcast. I’m your host Andrea Sager founder and CEO of Legalprenuer Inc. As a serial entrepreneur and someone that works exclusively with small business owners legally protecting their business. I’m dedicated to covering common legal issues faced by business owners, providing you with the business knowledge you need to catapult your business’s growth and showing you just how some of the world’s most elite entrepreneurs have handled these legal and business issues themselves. In true attorney fashion, the information in this episode is not legal advice. This is for informational purposes only. And you should always consult with your attorney before implementing any of the information in the show. Hello there, welcome back to The Legalprenuer podcast. Today’s episode is one that I didn’t think I would ever do. But I had a video go viral last week, and gotta clear some things up. So if you don’t follow me on Tik Tok, you should definitely go do that. It’s the Legalprenuer. And I don’t know what’s going on. But I’ve literally had two videos get over a million views over the past couple of weeks, and two completely unrelated videos. But the one from last week is currently at 2.5 million views. And basically, it’s about Disney, they filed a lawsuit right before the end of 2022 against this online retailer. And I did a quick video on this. And quite frankly, it was a bad video on my part. But I didn’t I definitely did not expect it to get the traction that it did. Of course, you know, as a creator, I always want to have traction. And I always want to be growing on social media. But I didn’t expect it to get 2.5 million views. And basically I start the video on Hey, in case you missed it, Disney filed a lawsuit against an online retailer and I’m gonna tell you why small business owners need to be concerned. Well, I literally film this in my car. As I was about to go to dinner with my best friend. He wasn’t rushing me, but I was like, I gotta hurry up. Well, anyways, I did not give all the reasons that small business owners need to be concerned. And this is not to say like, Hey, they’re gonna come and sue every small business owner. But basically, the video blew up. And I’ve done like follow up videos, a ton of follow up videos. But I also want to let everybody here know what’s going on, and why you should actually be concerned as a small business owner. But if you’re a small business owner, and you’re creator, you’re a designer, and you don’t sell dupes. You don’t steal designs, you really have nothing to worry about. But there were a lot of comments about a few things that I want to clear up and make sure that nobody here is misunderstanding, because that’s the last thing I want to happen. I don’t want any listeners, any audience members to have any of the same beliefs that a lot of people that watch the video have. As a quick reminder, the Legalprenuer book is coming out at the end of this month. I am so excited. It’s been a labor of love and legal prayer, the business owners guide to legally protecting your business will finally be in your hands. If you have not already pre ordered your copy, get to it. Now the actual price of the hardcover book will be more than the pre sale price. And if you are getting in on the pre sale price, you actually get over $2,000 in bonuses. So run don’t walk, go get the Legalprenuer book right now while it’s still on pre order. So number one.


Andrea Sager  03:54

And I just laugh because some of the things that we both said it was just so fun, like wow, people believe some crazy stuff. So a lot of people left a comment about oh, they’re just worried because Disney is in the public domain, or they’re about to be in the public domain. That is 100% not true. When it comes to copyrights, there’s only a certain lifetime of a copyright. It’s changed over time. Currently, if you create a work and is protected with a federal copyright, you have that copyright for the life of the author plus 75 years, and it’s changed like I said, so. Initial copyright the initial Mickey Steamboat Willie, that is hitting the public domain next year and 2024 that is what people were referring to it but people think that just is going to leave Mickey and Disney a free for all but that is 100% not true. And if you sell products, you create products, whatever you want to use Mickey or Minnie, whatever, do not think that you’re gonna be able to use use any of those materials in 2024, because that’s not the case. What is happening is Steamboat Willie, the initial Mickey Mouse, it was a short film, I think was like seven or eight minutes, that is hitting the public domain. However, Disney has already put that video up for free. So people can already take that and use it, whatever. But that does not mean they can monetize any version of Mickey Mouse. As the copyright holder, they have modernized and changed versions of Mickey, and they still own those versions. So I don’t want anybody here to think that Mickey Mouse is going to be in the public domain and 2024 or anything Disney is going to be in the public domain in 2024, because that’s not the case. Second, the Mickey ears so I posted them on my stories. And so if you go to my personal Instagram at Andrea Sager law, I put it as a highlight now, of all of the dupes Disney put in the lawsuit. And everybody’s commenting about the Mickey ears, the mouse ears, and like what doesn’t matter, Disney can’t own mouse ears. And they are absolutely right. Disney cannot own mouse ears. However, they own the silhouette, they own the look of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. So if people create the same looking types of ears, and it is meant to look like Mickey or Minnie Mouse, that is infringement. Now, specifically, there is a copyright on the silhouette of Mickey Mouse, there’s a couple of different copyrights. And then there’s also a trademark as well. A copyright like I said, Can’t expire a trademark, as long as it’s renewed, it can live on forever. So if you’re creating Mickey ears that has copyright and trademark infringement, and that is the dupe if you’re watching the video, you can see it if you’re not watching the video, you can go either to my stories to see the dupes or go to YouTube and watch it to see what I’m showing to the camera. So those are the dupes. I’m going to show you what is protected. So these are the copyrights that Disney has. And then here is the trademark that Disney has. So you can see if somebody creates the same types of ears. It’s trademark and copyright infringement. Now I did post another video, if you go to my tic tock, it’s Disney does not own mouse ears because I showed an example of what actually is okay. And actually, let me show that here. So this these mouse ears, that’s not infringement, because somebody is not going to believe that the pink in the middle belongs to Disney, like that’s just not Mickey or Minnie Mouse. So that is actually a Halloween costume. That is okay, because that’s not likely to cause confusion, it’s not substantially similar. So mouse ears, if it is mouse ears, that you can argue, are not likely to cause confusion or substantially similar to the Mickey Mouse ears, then it may not be infringement. However, if they’re solid, and they are decorated, if they look similar, it is infringement. So my advice is to stay away from the mouse ears. That way you don’t get a cease and desist letter from Disney. And so the third thing a lot of people were because when the video the initial video I put, you know, Disney doesn’t often Sue small business owners. And then of course, there’s a million comments like they’ve sued this person. They’ve done this, they don’t. People were commenting about all these lawsuits and did it like I did a follow up video about this. I said, Actually, Disney doesn’t sue that many people in correlation to how many infringers there are Disney 100% will go after infringers. But they often don’t sue, because it’s not worth it. What typically is done and this is done by a lot of big brands, and then we do this for clients all the time, is they’ll send out a wave of cease and desist letters to whoever is infringing. And then they won’t pursue it any further if they stopped selling. Well, the company that they actually sued. And there’s been a lot of comments about the couple that was sued there. Apparently, they’re not very nice people. And somebody also said that he used to work for Disney, the husband did. But anyways, the reason Disney sued these people is because they sent them a couple of cease and desist letters December 2021. And they were not trying to settle the matter in good faith. And that’s what the courts want to see. Very rarely is there going to be a lawsuit without a cease and desist letter first being sent. The first thing if you’re in court, the judge wants to know Hey, what have you done to settle this matter in good faith? And if you haven’t even sent a cease and desist letter, most likely, the judge is going to throw out the case or at least put it on pause until you try to settle it between the two of you. Well, the owners of this other company didn’t try to settle it. They just ignored it and they kept selling and even as of you know, the time I’m recording this, they are still Selling. I think they’re putting other items on like clearance trying to like mark everything down to you or their merchandise and I will be keeping up with this. So if you want to follow along, make sure you’re following me on tick tock. So if you are selling Disney and this goes for anybody, Starbucks, Louis Vuitton, any other brand, it is trademark infringement, it could be copyright infringement, and most likely they will come after you. That doesn’t mean they’re going to sue you that I can actually file a lawsuit, but most likely, you will get a cease and desist letter. The most common situation I see that I have helped clients with is getting cease and desist letters from Louis Vuitton, that that’s always fun, because there’s two different matter. And I’ve done a podcast episode on this. So scroll back and find that if you want to hear about those matters, but just know that you should not be selling another brand, unless you have a proper license. And that’s the thing about Disney, you can go to Disney and get a license to sell their items. Disney makes billions of dollars every single year through licensing. That’s their biggest generator. Money generator is licensing. It’s not actually the parks. It’s not actually the products that they sell. It is from licensing. So that is why you’ll often hear me talk about licensing is because of the revenue that can be created. And you want to make sure that you’re not leaving money on the table. This is why I talk about certification programs. This is why I talk about, hey, when you find an infringer, try to turn them either into a wholesaler or licensee, you want to still be able to make money without you having to do the work. And that’s where licensing comes in. Okay, there were a million other comments and questions that came up. But I don’t want to sit here all day and talk to you about Disney unless you want to hear more. So if you enjoy this, and you want more updates on this podcast, let me know on tick tock on Instagram. I love this stuff. I mean, I don’t love when a small business owner gets sued. But when you blatantly ignore the brand like you had you had it come into you. So what I love is teaching people because I now I think we’ve gained like almost 10,000 followers in the past week, just from people that want to hear more about Disney and infringement. And that’s what I love talking about is explaining, hey, how this stuff works. So let me know if you want to hear more here on the podcast. And I will see you Wednesday, we have a great interview coming up. Don’t miss it. And if you haven’t already left a review, I would so so. So appreciate it. If you’re not following us on YouTube. Make sure you’re following on YouTube, please like we are sending some amazing content just exclusively to YouTube. So make sure you’re following along there as well. All right, I’ll see you on Wednesday. Here at Legalprenuer, we’re committed to providing a supportive legal community. For all business owners. I know how scary the legal stuff can be. If you found this information helpful, I would be so grateful if you could share it with a fellow business owner. And quite frankly, it doesn’t cost anything to rate review or subscribe to the show. Your support helps me reach more listeners which allows me to support more business owners in their entrepreneurial journey. Have any questions or comments about the show? Feel free to drop me a line on Instagram. I promise I read all of the messages and comments. And if you want to be a guest on the show or know someone that would make a great guest simply fill out our application form and a team member will reach out if we think it’s a good fit. I’ll see you in the next episode.