San Diego — This week, thanks to moronic posts on Twitter and Facebook, Pixar had to change the name of a production now in progress. Originally titled “Dia De Los Muertes” (Day of the Dead) with a storyline based around the Mexican festival that has since swept the Latin American cultures, they sought to trademark the material created for the film. But some whose ESL classes apparently failed, or others whose laziness and absence of insight and knowledge of intellectual property laws prohibited them from discovering the underlying truths involved, went ballistic. My Facebook page was sadly inundated with posts from people who should know better, all up in arms claiming that Disney was trying to steal and/or commandeer their holiday.
Oh PUHLEEEEEEZE… The result is something that should be of interest to every designer and artist seeking to copyright and/or trademark their work.
I must say, I’m used to reading and ignoring uber liberal screeds from authors clearly paying no attention to such little issues as history or socio-anthropological studies into human nature. I’m even used to the idiotic posts from minds so closed to basic physics principles as to think that the world can, today, simply stop deriving energy from fossil fuels, especially automotive in nature, and all drive electric vehicles thereby eliminating pollution and other byproducts of the internal combustion engine. Those pathetic bits of inanity are barely worth a response because they fail under the weight of their own lack of knowledge or connection to reality; I could not improve on the rebuttal of reality except to parrot it, so chose to ignore it and hope that someday, ignorance and stupidity will receive its own karmic justice.
But I’ve never gotten quite used to skin so thin and self esteem so shallow as to feel culturally threatened by such characters as The Frito Bandito or Speedy Gonzales. When you feel slighted by a character who likes Fritos or one whose speed and cunning invariably win the day, then it is time to get a grip. Especially when other negative depictions of the cuture, such as the gangs in West Side Story, or Hill Street Blues, or CSI:Miami, draw not a peep of protest. One can only assume that observers are OK with those gangs, or at least more so, than with cartoon characters. And what does that say about mental acuity?
But this Disney/Pixar thing is too much. It is time to call “Bullshit!”
When such a large group manages to bounce their collective reality check because, like sheep to the sheerer they were led by sound bites and impassioned, if stupid, assertions on Twitter and Facebook, I honestly don’t care beyond wishing for more chlorine in the gene pool. But when that collective nonsense rises to the level of creating a precedent that could have a negative effect on artistic/creative endeavors, then it is time to respond.
First of all, anyone with an interest in truth or an ability to read fairly basic English could have started with even the tiniest search on just what can be claimed under copyright or trademark laws. Hint, you can Google it.
Had they done so they would have discovered that you cannot trademark/copyright protect ideas, nor can you protect common phrases or names such as… names of holidays and festivals. If that were what disney/Pixar sought to do the trademark application would have been summarily turned down.
So the next phase of investigation would have logically been to discover what was actually being sought and what are the precedent examples. Remember there have been any number of films made with the titles of holidays (“Fourth of July,” and “Halloween,” for example). No one would try to trademark the NAME itself because it is not allowed. Nor did the producers of those films seek to take over the holidays or their celebrations and wrench them out of the hands of those wishing to observe them. So what WAS in need of protection?
Especially in an animated feature, but in smaller ways true of any production, there is ancillary design and artwork that CAN be protected. Title designs, designs of posters, for example, can be protected. In an animated feature the characters and their appearance can be copyrighted and protected.
You are free to make a copy of Mickey Mouse, but if you attempt to appropriate that figure for your own commercial use Disney will hammer you. You are free to enjoy Halloween but if you copy and appropriate the figure and designs of the film’s logo or poster image for your own commercial use without proper licensing, prepare to pay a huge penalty.
And THAT is what the petition for trademark protection sought to protect, it was the name IN ASSOCIATION with thetype, logo design and the drawings of the characters specific to the film.
Had it been pursued to completion no one, certainly not Disney or Pixar would try to stop someone from celebrating Dia De Los Muertos. And it would not have been economically worthwhile coming after some family that used the same but protected logo or characters for a home-brew party. But you would not have legally been able to use the logo or the characters in a commercial, for-profit project. In essence you are not allowed to make money off of the work of others. Why would you have a problem with that unless you too wanted to appropriate someone else’s work as your own?
Any of us who create designs or logos know that lots of company names use words that one cannot trademark or copyright: it is the PACKAGE of design, layout, graphic, etc. that can be trademarked. If you are a designer, graphic artist, or content provider for such creative services you ought to be concerned about a situation where a large group of essentially uninformed people can get all stirred up for a bogus issue and cause the disruption of your project over utter B.S.
Is this going to be the legacy of social media: that mental midgets can totally misunderstand something but rouse enough others suffering from similar intellectual handicaps to destroy projects over nothing?
Personally I think it already is.