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Is Disney at the Social Media copyright rip-off? #prfail or #prwin ?

The House of Mouse has launched a new social media campaign, Disney Vacation Memories. Here’s the TL;DR version – Disney is going to take people’s pictures and videos and use them in a new promotion campaign – but there’s no mention of payment for the use of the work or copyright. Is Disney just doing what others do? Should companies compensate people if they include links to their content?

Let’s look at the issue…

It kicks off with a video, so here we go…


The idea is that – according to the Mashable article – by “re-purposing user-submitted photos and videos from entertainment and resort venues, Disney is hoping to craft a campaign that helps recapture the good memories individuals have of going to Disney World or Disneyland.”

The article also states: “Beyond the advertising campaign, Disney will begin to incorporate family memories into its theme parks with its “Let the Memories Begin” nighttime experiences starting January 2011.”

Now, it’s all very nice looking and you can’t fault the idea – companies do it all the time on sites, especially on Facebook. They link to what others have said. Indeed, it’s a strong part of the 2.0 culture. (And, as you would expect, Mashable spaffs all over it, not stopping once to ask a hard question about the whole thing – thank God for the comments section where some point out the obvious connection with Cory Doctorow and Makers).

But should Disney compensate the people that it takes this content from? Is ‘repurposing’ just a nice way of saying ‘taking with permission but without payment’? If it’s all take and nothing else, then surely it’s not really social media, it’s just a picture and video grab.

So is Disney just doing what everyone else does on a larger scale or should people be expecting recompense from Disney for their pics being used in parks and in advertising campaigns? That’s the question of the blog post but there’s also the wider issue of should companies pay individuals for their links to material that they use on their own sites?

Will Disney pay for use of material? Who knows – I’d love to find out if they do but at the moment I’m with PR prof at the University of Georgia and Editor of the Journal of Public Relations Research Karen Russell who said “As if!” when asked that very question.

(and praise to thisMoment for coming up with the campaign)

(And before anyone says that this is an anti-Disney rant, let’s clear one thing up: I may have issues – highlighted by Adam Hills and Carl Hiassen in Team Rodent but Disney have done very well out of the Contently household and Disney also do a lot of things very well, including customer service. We’ve been to EuroDisney three times, Florida Disney once – including a session at the pricey Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique – and that’s before you count in all the films we’ve been to see, all the Disney Princess toys bought, costumes, the DVDs, Hannah Montanna and so on. There’s also a high chance we’ll be back next year to Orlando, Florida if we can get dates to match up with other things. I’ve got a six year old daughter, Disney own my wallet. And they’ll get it again as my son grows up.)

  1. Matches Malone

    Looking at this closely, people are probably glad that their content is being used, and for them, that’s payment enough, however, the larger issue is, why should I create content for another site for free? I’m a filmmaker, I normally get paid to do things like this. This may be part of a larger rant brewing….

  2. MichaelMacLeod

    I was going to have a jog and think about this but really don’t think I’ll get past the worrying thought that Disney’s brand is so powerful that many people will fall over themselves to offer up their photographs for free. They won’t consider it “content.” Instead they’ll be happy to feel as though they are part of “the magic.” There’s no way Disney will need to pay for any of it because they’ll probably get a Thunder Mountain sized pile of pictures from people eager to be part of it for nothing. Like you say though Craig, I was reading the Mashable post expecting there to be a big “butttt” and a question. But no! Straight in there without questions. Disney will be happy with that.
    Enjoying your blog as always! Mike

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