Sunday, November 10, 2013

Don't Mess With The Mouse's Intellectual Property

"Don't mess with the mouse" is a business meme referencing the longtime Disney icon Mickey Mouse.  It originates from Disney's penchant for litigating any infringement of the company's huge IP portfolio.  Disney's acquisition of the Marvel comic universe and Lucasfilm properties make its IP territory even larger.

Internet memes using unauthorized photos of copyrighted works are going to be a gold mine for litigants under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Real estate investors have told me how much they collect in summary judgments against debtors who skip out on rent payments and damage assessments.  IP litigants will find similarly easy pickings among Pinterest and Instagram serial violators of copyrights.  I'm pretty sure some disruptive entrepreneur could develop a bot-net that would automatically scour the Web for non-watermarked images of Disney properties.  Once identified, the Mouse's ERP corporate counsel module automates the generation of cease-and-desist orders.  Global content owners will own those violators in no time flat.

Popular memes will gradually come to an end as the threat of litigation permeates digital culture.  Web publishers will have to automate watermark searches for user-generated content just to ensure they don't get sued.  We will no longer see funny meme photos of Star Wars characters saying absurd things.  Forget about uploading mashup clips of your favorite Hollywood hits to YouTube.  Disney and other creative powerhouses will own our culture.  The only other works available will be artisan photos and projects that can only succeed if they go viral on their own.  Start filming your cat's tricks right now.  That's your ticket to fame and fortune.

Full disclosure:  No copyrighted images were used in this blog post.