Members of U.S. Congress won’t support copyright extension for Mickey Mouse, citing Disney’s “woke corporate actions”

Credit: The Independent/Disney

A group of Republican Congressional members has told Disney CEO Bob Chapek that they will not support an extension of Disney’s copyright protection for Mickey Mouse, and that protection is set to expire in just 20 short months.

Steamboat Willie (film) - D23

Credit: D23

In a letter to the embattled CEO of The Walt Disney Company, members of Congress who serve on the Republican Study Commission openly expressed their opposition to continuing the copyright on the mouse who began it all. The copyright in question is specifically related to Steamboat Willie, and it’s set to expire on January 1, 2024.

Their reasoning? According to the group of Congressmen, Disney “has capitulated to far-left activists through hypocritical, woke corporate actions,” citing Disney’s recent stance on Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” law.

Congressman Jim Banks (R-Indiana)/Credit: The Independent

According to FOX News, the letter was “spearheaded” by the Republican Study Commission chairman Jim Banks from Indiana. The letter notes Disney’s ties to Communist China, and it also references Disney’s “political and sexual agenda.” The letter mentions both of these issues as reasons for the Congressional members’ opposition to a copyright extension for Disney’s Mickey.

mickey through the years

Credit: Disney

The letter reads as follows:

Dear Mr. Chapek:

We write to you today to express our concerns regarding your comments that stand in opposition to parental rights. As you are aware, last month, Florida’s legislature passed the Parental Rights in Education Act. This legislation prohibits teaching age or developmentally inappropriate content about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through grade three. This law also empowers parents by prohibiting schools from withholding important information about their children.

These protections are critically important in light of activist educators’ efforts to steer vulnerable children toward irreversible gender transition procedures behind their parents’ backs and to introduce graphic materials under the guise of learning.

We believe parents should be able to send their children to school to get an education, not an indoctrination. This measure is a reasonable step to ensure that parents, not teachers, are discussing controversial and sensitive subjects like sexuality and gender identity with their children.

To be clear, The Walt Disney Company never expressed displeasure with this legislative proposal while the Florida legislature was reviewing the bill. In fact, The Walt Disney Company previously contributed financially to the campaigns of both sponsors and backers of this legislation. You waited until facing progressive backlash to release a hostile statement in opposition to this legislation, arguing that it “should never have passed and should never have been signed into law.”

As a company, you market products and services to parents with young children. While we recognize the importance of free speech, we are disappointed that you have chosen to use your voice and influence to actively work to repeal substantive protections for parents. You have stated that your company is “dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+” individuals. We are disheartened that your desire to stand up for the rights of individuals does not extend to the rights of parents across this nation – only to those who are loudest and apply the most pressure to your company.

You have even stated that your “goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts.” As a company, your goal should instead be to make a profit, provide job opportunities for hard-working Americans, and offer quality products and services to your customers – not cowering to a small political minority seeking to impose a fringe ideology on the rest of the country.

We condemn your outspoken attack on Florida’s common-sense protections for children and parents, and we worry your words will be weaponized and used to further divide and inflame our nation. We stand in opposition to the dangers posed by corporate wokeness, and we applaud the Florida legislature for giving children and families the tools to fight back against woke indoctrination. We urge you to reconsider your antagonistic comments.”

The letter is signed by Ralph Norman, Bob Good, Mary E. Miller, Doug Lambourn, Matthew M. Rosendale, Sr., Andy Harris, M.D., Byron Donalds, Andrew S. Clyde, Andy Biggs, Brian Babin, D.D.S., Jeff Duncan, and Madison Cawthorn.

Credit: Orlando Weekly

“It’s unfortunate that Disney, once an American success story,” writes Mr. Banks, “has allied with a hostile foreign regime and domestic ideologues who seek to tear our country apart.”

Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) echoed those sentiments.

“Disney used to be an inspiration for all American families,” he said. “But it seems to now have given in to the woke mob.”

In news reminiscent of that from the late 1920s, Disney is facing the loss of its rights to the beloved Mickey Mouse Steamboat Willie character. At this time, the copyright is set to expire in January 2024. Once the copyright expires, Disney’s Steamboat Willie character will become part of the public domain–unless Disney is able to pull a fast one like it did in the late 1980s.

Disney Will Lose the Rights to Mickey Mouse in 2024, One Company Is  Swooping In - Inside the Magic

Credit: D23

The Steamboat Willie character was set to have its Mickey Mouse copyright pulled out from under him in 1988, and Disney would stop at nothing to keep Walt’s famous mouse from becoming someone else’s intellectual property. So Disney bypassed the peanut gallery and went straight to the federal government for help, lobbying Congress to grant the House of Mouse a copyright extension on its beloved tenant.

mickey mouse

Credit: Disney Parks

Whether it was Disney’s powerhouse persona, a Heavenly favor from Walt, or a Congress full of Mickey fans, we’ll never know. But the lobbying proved fruitful, and the copyright extension was granted in the form of the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act,” or as it is more formally known, the Copyright Term Extension Act.

But an act of Congress has its limitations, and the sun is setting on the copyright protection extension granted to Disney in 1988. And if Disney wants to keep its copyright on the Main Mouse, the entertainment giant will have to play nice; at least that’s the general feel of the letter from the RSC Congressional members to Disney CEO Bob Chapek.

Mickey Mouse copyright laws may last forever - Deseret News

Credit: Deseret News

Currently, Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District is on the chopping block. Even though Florida Republicans say the timing of a bill calling for the dissolution of Disney’s special tax district in Orange and Osceola Counties is questionable. The bill to dissolve has already passed the Florida Senate and House and now awaits a signature from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!