Senator Moves to Strip 'Woke' Disney of Copyrights

Josh Hawley wants to reduce protection term from 95 years to 56 years
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 11, 2022 1:48 PM CDT
GOP Senator Wants to Strip Disney of Copyrights
Sen.Josh Hawley speaks during a Senate Armed Services hearing Tuesday, May 10, 2022.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

(Newser) – Sen. Josh Hawley has taken the Republican attacks on Disney to a new level: The senator introduced a bill Tuesday that would undo decades of copyright law for large corporations, retroactively stripping Disney of its rights to many characters, the Hill reports. In a press release, Hawley made it clear that it was a response to Disney's "wokeness." "Thanks to special copyright protections from Congress, woke corporations like Disney have earned billions while increasingly pandering to woke activists," Hawley said. "It's time to take away Disney’s special privileges and open up a new era of creativity and innovation."

He added that the "age of Republican handouts to Big Business is over." His bill, the Copyright Clause Restoration Act, would limit copyright to a maximum of 56 years, meaning Disney properties from as late as 1966 would enter the public domain. It only applies to entertainment companies with a market capitalization of over $150 billion. But intellectual property law experts say the bill is "blatantly unconstitutional" and would have no chance of becoming law even if Republicans controlled Congress, Variety reports. Under current copyright law, protection for corporate-owned works lasts 95 years after publication.

The limit was extended from 75 years in 1998, when the earliest version of Mickey Mouse was on the verge of being out of copyright and Disney lobbied for the change. The 56-year maximum Hawley proposes dates to the Copyright Act of 1909. Sarah Jeong at the Verge calls Hawley's bill "deeply unserious" and "an empty and cynical gesture meant for a future fundraising email." "I say this as someone who thinks ... the last extension of copyright terms should have never been allowed in 1998, and that Disney’s activism toward that end is reprehensible," she says. (Florida lawmakers passed an anti-Disney bill after the company spoke out against the state's so-called "Don't Say Gay" law.)

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