Snowflakes on winter ground. How Frozen changed Disney copyright law.Disney is one of the most well-known and beloved companies in the world. From television shows to movies, merchandise, and theme parks, the Disney copyright and trademark protections safeguard these valuable assets from infringement. For generations, Disney has fought numerous legal battles over trademark and copyright infringement. You don’t get as popular as Disney if you don’t fight for yourself!

In the digital age, copyright protection has become more difficult. From online piracy to user created fan pages, brands must walk a fine line in enforcing their intellectual property rights. The movie Frozen is changing the way Disney looks at their rights. Frozen is the highest grossing animated film of all time, in the theater and beyond. It registered the most Blu-Ray DVD sales and paid digital downloads of any movie ever.  This success has been parlayed into merchandise, short digital films, and licensing and advertising opportunities galore; creating a revenue boom for the Disney brand.  Frozen’s online presence is an example of the fandom a movie can create, with user created movies, parodies, and art. Frozen isn’t just popular for young girls—even fathers have jumped on the viral video wagon. This, “A Frozen Father (‘Let It Go’ Dad Parody)”  went viral, with nearly 1.6 million views.

Many of these items walk the line between “fair use” and copyright infringement, and in some cases Disney could have requested the videos removed based on their legal copyright. With the movie Frozen, Disney seems to have evolved its stance on fan created art, allowing a myriad of these songs to propagate on sites like Youtube without batting an eye. It seems the company is looking at these videos as a benefit that advances the brand. Fan created content has become a way to celebrate the movie and connect with the characters, but has done little to dilute the money making power of the actual Disney Frozen “property”. In fact, this constant influx of new and viral content may contribute to the popularity of the movie and related merchandise.

That is not to say that Disney will relinquish its intellectual property rights to Frozen all together.  Disney still remains protective of their brand and intellectual property, but they have realized that their online fandom is only here to help them. As long as the fan created content helps to build a greater Frozen community, Disney is more than happy to let them stay. But, should it cross the line into garnering revenue for users, you can bet that Disney’s intellectual property police will come out in full force. It seems like Disney is trying to find a line between a fan community and enforcing their copyright.

To read more about Disney and Frozen, check out this great article from DailyDot.

If you have any questions about digital copyright law or any other matter, then please get in touch via our contacts section or email me at zack@zhillerlaw.com.

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