Steamboat Willie Drama Leads to Several Demonetizations

( –¬†Disney has issued yet another demonetization on a video featuring the iconic Steamboat Willie animation, ignoring the fact that the famous animation entered the public domain and became available for public use. Youtuber Brock Baker created the demonetized Steamboat Willie video and has previously experienced demonetizations from Disney, including a prior demonetization on the same video that Disney later removed.

Demonetization prevents YouTubers from profiting from content they didn’t create, but the system doesn’t apply to content that enters the public domain due to United States copyright law. The public domain allows anyone to use content created and copyrighted by someone else in any way they see fit. The public domain takes effect 70 years after a trademarked artwork’s original creator dies. Steamboat Willie entered the public domain earlier this year, but Disney hasn’t followed copyright law and instead uses YouTube’s demonetization system to remove legally valid third-party videos like Baker’s.

Disney retracted its most recent demonetization of Baker’s video just a day after it issued the copyright strike, but Baker isn’t allowed to keep his video on the site yet. He faces yet another demonetization from Universal Music Group, which owns the copyright for each piece of music manufactured by Disney and its affiliates. Online audiences have questioned the validity of the Univeral Music Group, as Baker used custom audio in the Steamboat Willie video, raising concerns that massive corporate entities can issue copyright strikes on videos without copyrighted content.

After issuing the copyright strike against Baker, Disney acknowledged Steamboat Willie’s status as public domain content and admitted that online content creators could use the famous short animation however they pleased. Public domain doesn’t just allow people to use famous characters in their content; it also allows people to use established characters in projects that generate revenue. Baker’s Steamboat Willie video is another instance of a YouTuber taking a piece of artwork from the public domain and dubbing over it to create an entirely new piece of media.

Disney hasn’t addressed the copyright situation, but some media experts believe Universal Music Group will retract its demonetization, as its parent company did. For now, Baker can’t post his Steamboat Willie video or use it for profit due to Disney and its affiliates’ ongoing demonetization effort.

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