Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
Media Patents

Disney Trades Person for Intellectual Property 152

Dotnaught writes "Walt Disney Company's ABC has traded sportscaster Al Michaels to General Electric Co.'s NBC for cartoon character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. NBC acquired the rights to the cartoon through its purchase of Universal Studios, which itself gained ownership of the animated rabbit through a contract that Walt Disney signed early in his career. Having to sign Oswald away supposedly prompted Disney to create Mickey Mouse, a character he'd own outright. The company that bears Disney's name fought tooth and nail to retain ownership of Mickey Mouse when the cartoon character's copyright was about to expire."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Disney Trades Person for Intellectual Property

Comments Filter:
  • by mfh ( 56 )
    That should read: Disney Trades Person for Lucky Rabbit

    Oswald the Lucky Rabbit looks very similar to Mickey (I haven't seen any of the films with him yet), but this is certainly a win for the whole gang at Disney -- one for Walt. Something they can all be proud of.
    • Who stole who's IP? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by EccentricAnomaly ( 451326 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @11:21AM (#14694282) Homepage
      Something they can all be proud of

      I don't know about that... I was reading the site linked in the article and found this blurb... and other googling revealed many accounts that Ub Iwerks was the real creator of Oswald and Mickey... not Walt. ( [])

      MGM's first sound cartoon character was Flip The Frog. Flip The Frog was created by Ub Iwerks. Ub Iwerks was the CREATOR of Mickey Mouse and had drawned the early Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony cartoons. (Walt Disney didn't know how to draw and never learned. Take a look at some of the Laugh O Grams that he drew and you'll see how poor his drawing skills were. You can look at the Mickey Mouse poster on the bottom of this page and see what it says: A Walt Disney Comic...Drawn by Ub Iwerks. ) Disney propaganda would have you believe otherwise but the case can be settled by looking at the newspapers, advertisements and magazines of the era. Below you can see a clipping from a 1930 German newspaper hailing the new creation of Ub Iwerks, the creator of Mickey Mouse. Ub Iwerks had actually drawn a frog and his girlfriend in the Silly Symphony cartoons. In one of the last SIlly Symphonies that Ub Iwerks drew the foucs of the film were these two frogs. This cartoon is called Summer. Ub Iwerks with the help of Pat Powers started this new cartoon series after leaving Disney. The first cartoon that Ub Iwerks made for the series was also the first COLOR sound cartoon that was ever made. (Even though Disney would have you believe other wise. Incidentally the first sound cartoon was not the Mickey Mouse cartoon called "Steamboat Willie" but an Aesop's Fable which Disney had seen and copied in 1928 called "DINNER TIME". The first Flip The Frog cartoon had a mouse playing a violin and you can see above. When reading books on so-called animation history some SOB Disney propagandists even refer to the mouse in FIDDLESTICKS as a copy of Walt's Disney Mickey Mouse! Will Disney ever stop taking credit from other people who deserve it?
    • Now that they own Oswald, no one can sue saying that Mickey is an unauthorized derivative work based on Oswald. He obviously is. I am surprised that there wasn't a suit like that decades ago.
    • Thanks to Taito and NBC/Universal, Oswald seems to be Big in Japan. [] Perhaps this is just an attempt by Disney to get a piece of the action on this kawaii revival.
  • Disgusting (Score:5, Funny)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday February 11, 2006 @09:43AM (#14693955) Journal
    (AP) At the NYSE, soul trading closed down five and a quarter points Friday afternoon. The worth of an average human soul has plummeted recently to a value not seen since the great depression. Disney has been pioneering the movement of trading souls regularly for concepts, legal action or maybe just a few dollars more.

    Michael Eisner wasn't competent enough to comment.
    • For a second I was going to point you in Oracle's direction. Then I actually read the freaking article. Nothing like trading someone for four rounds of golf,olympic highlights, and a stupid bunny.
      • Except for the fact that it is a misleading headline....

        How is this a "trade"? Al Michaels signed a contract. Disney adhered to their obligations under that contract. Al Michaels requested that he be released from his obligations. Disney requested compensation for that release and NBC paid compensation.

        It would be a trade if Disney sold Al Michaels contract to NBC, and Al Michaels had no recourse except to refuse to work.

      • by Simonetta ( 207550 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @02:59PM (#14695283)
        Shit, you can eat a real bunny. But what can you do with a cartoon?

            (Except drive 10,000,000 people into fits of psychotic violent madness and embassy-burning riots. Just depends on the cartoon.)
    • Disgusting? (Score:2, Informative)

      by jcorno ( 889560 )
      He asked to be traded. They didn't walk into his office and say, "We traded you for a cartoon character, pack your shit and start walking." He wanted to work for NBC, NBC wanted him, and this was ABC's price for letting him go.
      • Re:Disgusting? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sdo1 ( 213835 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @10:20AM (#14694067) Journal
        Exactly! He was under contract with ABC. NBC wanted him and he wanted to go to NBC (and I'm OK with that... I think he and Madden make a pretty decent football announcing team). ABC wanted compensation for releasing him from his contract. ABC (ESPN) asked for a few things and they got them.

        I completely fail to see why this is in any way disgusting, morally corrupt, or out of the realm of normal and moral business dealings at all.

        I agree that one might argue that the perpetual copyright extensions are a bad thing for the public at large, but that's really not part of this story at all.

        • I think he and Madden make a pretty decent football announcing team

          Ehh, they're OK, but Buck and Aikman are the best now. Everyone's trying to catch up to Fox these days on football. And the ESPN teams really are awful.

          If Michaels is worth Oswald then I'd think that Buck is worth at least an Elmer Fudd, and Aikman is Daffy Duck-class, maybe even Roger Rabbit.
        • I completely agree but personally I think it would suck being traded for a really crappy drawing of a rabbit []
          • After looking at the Rabbit (your link), I think this isn't about the rabbit at all, but about the fact that Mickey Mouse *appears* to be a "derivative work" based on said rabbit. If Disney fails to control the rabbit, they could conceivably weaken their ownership of Mickey.

            That said, I enjoy Al Michaels and am glad he got this chance to work where he wants to be.

      • He asked to be traded.

        Yeah, but you can imagine the ego deflation when he got the call into the office...

        "We've come to an agreement with NBC. You're being traded for a rabbit."

    • by artemis67 ( 93453 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @10:47AM (#14694155)
      There's a dollar value on Al Michaels contract and there's a dollar value on the copyrights to the Oswald character. Instead of exchanging dollars, they exchanged items of equivalent value. It's called "bartering" and it predates any known currency system.

      What's the big deal?

      Besides, it's obvious why Disney did this... as a Walt Disney creation and a forerunner to Mickey Mouse, this is an important and historic part of the Disney legacy, and it's fitting that Disney should seek to acquire the copyright.
      • If Disney et. al. hadn't fought so hard to make copyright perpetual they could've had the rabbit and Al Michaels too.
        • No. They would have had nothing. Mickey Mouse and much of their earlier (and even later) works would be in the public domain. So yes, in a way they would still be able to use such characters, but so would anybody else.

          The value of Mickey Mouse to Disney is mainly in Disney's monopoly over its use (or the licensing of its use). Without that monopoly, anybody could potentially make money via the use of the Mickey Mouse image without giving Disney a cent. So that Mickey Mouse backpack your kids might want may
  • trade ya (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 11, 2006 @09:43AM (#14693956)
    I'll trade you my little brother for the rights to that piece of code you've got there.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Sounds like a fair trade to me.
  • Oh man... (Score:5, Funny)

    by qw0ntum ( 831414 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @09:47AM (#14693967) Journal
    I wonder what it feels like to know that you are worth a cartoon character?

    From the mysterious future: Al Michaels commits suicide; friends cite work-related depression.

    • I wonder what it feels like to know that you are worth a cartoon character?
      You actually mean: I wonder how it feels like to know that you are worth a cartoon character, four rounds of golf, and olympic highlights?
      • Almost makes you think they did it just to piss Michaels off, hmm? They could have just as easily asked them for nothing.

        ESPN (parent company -- Disney, to the chagrin of all sports fan with a soul) paid $8.8 billion for the rights to broadcast football games on Monday night for the next eight years. Al Michaels, one of the preeminent broadcasters in sports, agreed to announce the games, then decided he didn't want to.

        That devalued Disney's investment significantly. My guess is this is Eisner's way o

        • Re:It's actually (Score:5, Informative)

          by sdo1 ( 213835 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @10:33AM (#14694110) Journal
          Does anyone even READ these stories? He and John Madden have been a broadcast team for a while. They apparently like working together and they like the product they bring to the table Madden's contract expired and he signed a new contract with a competing broadcaster (Sunday Night Football moves from ESPN to NBC next year and Monday Night Football goes from ABC to ESPN). Madden signed to do Sunday Night Football for NBC. Michels asked to be released from his ABC/ESPN contract to go to NBC to continue broadcasting with Madden. Michels is a good football announcer. A valuable property to ABC/ESPN (what's why they have him under contract... that's the whole POINT of signing contracts). Michels wanted out. ABC negotiates with NBC to have him released from his ABC contract. ABC gets stuff (including the rights to the cartoon), NBC gets Michels.

          And? No pissing off. Nothing strange going on. Just a change in situation and a mis-alignment of contract dates between two people who apparently consider themselves a broadcast "team".

          • Does anyone even READ these stories?

            Don't have to. Listen to WFAN four hours a day.

            The difference between Al Michaels and Mike Tirico in terms of viewer recognition, which leads to ratings and advertiser confidence, which leads to money, is significant. Al Michaels is a fixture. Mike Tirico is a nobody. ESPN was banking on Michaels to give their broadcast national credibility as this is the first year MNF is being broadcasted on their network after 30+ years on ABC.

            Al led ESPN to believe he would

        • Well, first think is Eisner is out at Disney. Robert Iger is now the CEO (for about the last year I think).

          I don't really understand the problem here. A bit strange thats for sure, but I'm not seeing anything to get worked up about. Michaels was under contract with ABC/ESPN/Disney but decided he wanted to go to work with his friends who moved to NBC. NBC wanted him. "They could have just as easily asked them for nothing". Sure I guess they could, but why would they? I guess if Kobe Bryant decided
    • I wonder what it feels like for most us, knowing we'd be valued far less than said cartoon character...

    • It could be worse. They could have Oswald doing the Monday Night Football play-by-play.
    • I don't know - depends on the cartoon character.

      If some company valued me so highly that they wouldn't part with my services unless they could obtain a cash-cow like, say, Mickey Mouse, I'd feel pretty good about myself.

      Of course, if I were traded for "Hippo #3" from a Betty Boop musical cartoon number, well, that would be a dark time.
  • Almost a copy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by broothal ( 186066 ) <> on Saturday February 11, 2006 @09:48AM (#14693968) Homepage Journal
    Notice the striking resemblance between Early Mickey Mouse [] and Oswald the lucky Rabbit []
    • Re:Almost a copy (Score:5, Informative)

      by fufubag ( 935599 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @09:52AM (#14693976)
      That is because Walt lost the rights to Oswald and had to come up with a new character. So Mickey is kind of like Oswald 2.0
      • Re:Almost a copy (Score:4, Insightful)

        by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @09:58AM (#14693996)
        Ironically, shouldn't that have been copyright infringement on Disney's part?

        If somebody came up with something so similiar to Mickey Mouse for the same audience (not parody), I'm sure Disney would send out the big guns to deal with it.
        • There must have not been enough lawyers back then.
        • You're starting to think like "them".

          Disney's character was an improvement over Oswald's character. That is precisely the behaviour we'd like to encourage if we would want developments to happen. Mozart and Bach anyone?

          The biggest problem with IP as of today is that it doesn't support group development. It was all fine and dandy to patent and copyright stuff in the 18th century where you could invent something just based on your own effort, but today it is very rarely possible any more. Humans need to w
        • Actually, many of the cartoon characters of the time were Mickey knock-offs. Warner Bros. for example had Foxy and piggy: er) []
        • Today, it would have probably just consisted of a 'cease and desist order'. Some of the similarity was just from the fact that it was the same person drawing a rodent. -- and Walt might have had some cause for a countersuit, if it came to a full lawsuit (Universal had, apparently, hired out his entire studio while he was in LA negotiating with them).
      • In which case now watch Oswald 1.0 quietly disappear.

        My guess is that Disney's intent is to bury Oswald to avoid confusion with the now far more profitable Mickey Mouse.

        Also avoids the risk of NBC pulling an SCO over Mickey Mouse.
    • Totally different from 52.html []

      Disney Sues Over Teddy Bears

      STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) -- The Walt Disney Co. has sued a Swedish importer for copyright infringement and requested the destruction of 25,000 teddy bears it says are illegal replicas of Winnie the Pooh. The stuffed bears, which were made in China, were intercepted by Swedish customs in April and wear the "hunny" loving bear's trademark red shirt, according to a lawsuit filed with the district court in
    • Much like another celebrated cartoon pair. Milton Caniff was working for the NY Daily News when he created Terry and the Pirates. It was wildly successful in syndication; the paper netted millions and Caniff got a ten percent raise.

      Caniff went to the editor and said he thought he was entitled to a piece of the action. The editor pointed out that he was only an employee, the paper owned the copyright, and he could have a nicer desk if he liked. Caniff said OK, best of luck with your comic strip, walked out

      • Much like another celebrated cartoon pair. Milton Caniff was working for the NY Daily News when he created Terry and the Pirates. It was wildly successful in syndication; the paper netted millions and Caniff got a ten percent raise.

        Caniff went to the editor and said he thought he was entitled to a piece of the action. The editor pointed out that he was only an employee,

        I'm no fan of copyright, but the editor has a point here. As an employee, Caniff gets a steady salary and benefits, whether or not he

        • If Caniff had wanted to keep his creation, he should instead have started out for himself, and suffered years of uncertainty and poverty until he came up with his great character. Which he might never have done. But at least he could have kept the full rewards.

          Milton Caniff was born in 1907. Terry and the Pirates first appeared in 1934, after a four year "apprenticeship" in the profession. Caniff brought cinematic story-telling and sophisticated artistic technique to the comic strip, his most famous creat

        • Point is, he did keep the full rewards, by starting over for himself. The newspaper assigned another employee to draw Terry and the Pirates, and quickly found out that it was Caniff's own creativity, and not just one static piece of IP, that powered the strip. Steve Canyon was Terry in everything but name (even the Dragon Lady was reincarnated as Copper Calhoon), and Caniff drew it for over forty years after Terry fizzled out.

          Caniff loved to make fun of liberals, and that knocked Steve Canyon out of quite

    • I find it hilarious that you're using the Danish Google server to show us cartoons :)
  • by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @09:52AM (#14693977)
    The rabbit will live in the iPod. Oswald will read his Powerbook, to gain Intel. His ferocity will grow into a dual core personality. Although we're not sure what comes NeXT, we're sure that there's no need for pesky sports announcers, after all. They just bitch and complain.
  • by Jarlsberg ( 643324 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @10:06AM (#14694023) Journal
    It's sports - they don't need a live human being to ask inane questions such as: "How many medals do you think we'll win the olympics", or "You just scored the winning goal, how did that feel?".

    Now, I'll sit up and take notice if they'll replace a news anchor with Morbo, but I don't think that'll happen any time soon. (If you don't know Morbo, you're not with the in crowd on Slashdot.)

  • by sdo1 ( 213835 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @10:08AM (#14694035) Journal
    First off, what on earth does this have to do with "Your Rights Online"?

    Second of all, there was a lot more in the trade than just the cartoon. According to Media Week [] ESPN wanted:

    (1) The cable telecast rights NBC owns to air Ryder Cup golf matches on Fridays in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014; (2) The rights to air expanded Olympics highlights on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS through the 2012 Games; and (3) The rights to the animated cartoons, Oswald The Lucky Rabbit, which were created by Disney animators in the 1920s, but distributed by Universal Studio, which got the rights to the cartoons.


    NBC will run an on-air promotion through 2011 for ESPN's Monday Night Football telecasts each week during its SNF telecasts... Also through 2011, ESPN obtained expanded-highlights rights for NBC Sports telecasts of Notre Dame football, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

    So, I fail to see what's news here. In the entertainment business, this sort of IP and rights trading/selling happens all of the time. Saying "trading a person for a cartoon" is an incredible dumbing-down of what happened.

    So tell me again what this has to do with my rights online?


    • Second of all, there was a lot more in the trade than just the cartoon.

      More importantly, it was not even a trade!

      Disney did not go to Al Michaels and say "Pack your bags and report to NBC." Al Michaels requested that he be released from his contract with Disney in order to make a new contract with NBC. Disney and NBC worked out a compensation agreement to compensate Disney for the loss of Al Michaels' services.

      When we talk about "trading" people, it generally means they have little or no choice. Th

    • I'm on a mailing list where this was discussed by people who work in the business side of the entertainment industry. Plagiarized to preserve anonymity, this explains things better than I ever could and puts the story in terms that non-lawyers can understand.

      People are not "assets" and employment contracts are not property. Employment contracts are agreements about work and not documents of indenture which give the "owner" the right to release or not release a worker on the basis of extrinsic value acquired

  • by bobalu ( 1921 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @10:09AM (#14694038)

    Interesting, seems the need to re-create a character due to legal IP restrictions led to a huge entertainnment empire.

    • It makes you wonder if copyrights were ever allowed to expire again, what other new and wonderful creations might be created, doesn't it??
  • Uhhh, why is there a picture of a vag on the wikipedia page about copyright extensions?
  • huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spiritraveller ( 641174 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @10:21AM (#14694069)
    what does this have to do with online?

    what does this have to do with rights?


    ok... just checking.
    • what does this have to do with rights?

      Copyrights. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Mickey Mouse. Sonny Bono. Orphan works.

    • what does this have to do with online?

      what does this have to do with rights?

      what does this have to do with me?

      It's a regular business dealing that's only interesting for involving really old IP.
  • by expro ( 597113 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @10:22AM (#14694073)

    "It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world ...But for Oswald?" (Thomas Moore, sort of)

    Apologies in advance for the attempt at humor, but it was what popped in to my head.

  • The current rule in US copyrights is that anything copyrighted after Mickey Mouse will always be copyrighted, as Disney manages to rent Congress whenever the latest extension is about to expire. Will this have to be changed to the Oswald the Lucky Bunny Rule, once they start marketing this motherfucker like he's new?
  • Poker Game (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Well, at least he wasn't lost in a poker game for a DBX Console.

    \Read your act of God clause.
  • WHAT??

    Do consider us poor readers on RSS, when writing your titles out.


  • by ThatsNotFunny ( 775189 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @11:05AM (#14694234)
    "I wish I could quit you..."
  • Roger: PPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPhhhhppPPppLLLEEASE EDDIE!?! Can I get Oswald? Please?
    Iger: Only if you bring me the head of Al Michaels.
    Roger: Okay! Can I bring a few rounds of golf too?
    Iger: Sure, but only if they complain that Al's not enough.
    Roger: Great! I'll also ask for some Olympic Highlights, and see what I can do about getting the Toon rights to Star Trek back!
    Igre: You go right ahead Roger.
    Roger: Thanks! I'll be Riiiiiighhhhhttttt Back!
  • Does this mean that some day in the near future I have a chance to trade some (IP) for Veronica Zemanova? That's considerable motivation: Just thinking about it makes my initiative stat hover some where near the astroid belt.

    What to code, what to code! *groan*


  • by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @12:09PM (#14694460)
    ...the trade does leave NBC without a first-string cartoon character, but he went on to state, "We're hopeful we can pick one up in next year's draft."

    Chris Mattern
  • Anim'ls (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 )
    That's the inevitable path of American culture: human rights replaced by corporate rights, and humans ourselves replaced by cartoons. We've already filled the Washington DC offices and the media stages, which institutionalize our culture, with two dimensional fictional characters. Tamagochi, though not as popular as in Japan, will surely bloom in online gaming. Eventually you'll get your Disney/Homeland Security mandatory offer to download your replacement.
  • surely the early cartoons are now in the public domain... or can we expect yet another Disney sponsored copyright term extension.
  • In other news, Disney announced the trade of Steve Jobs to Dreamworks SKG in exchange for Shrek and two minor characters to be named later.
  • This has all the hallmarks of a good deal.

    - ABC gets things of value to it.
    - NBC gets things of value to it.
    - Michaels and Madden gets something they want.
    - NBC/Universal unloads something that has no value to it -- Oswold -- and gives it to Disney (owner of ABC), who sees value in it, in return for things that NBC values.

    Trading contracts like this happens all the time in the professional world, most visably in professional sorts, where it's called a trade.

    There's absolutely nothing evil going on here. Wh
  • Can free agency be far behind for Al Michaels? Once he's eligable his value should really soar.
  • ...I can trade the annoying neighbor lady for one of those hot female rangers from Guild Wars? After all, they are intellectual property.

    You may mock me, but c'mon, admit it -- a finer use of polygons simply does not exist. Especially when they're dancing. :)
  • ...for some peace and quiet. I'm just exhausted with the constant stream of noise and information. Turn the TV off, pack it up, and put it by the curb. Sit and listen to the clock ticking. You'll feel better after.

"It takes all sorts of in & out-door schooling to get adapted to my kind of fooling" - R. Frost