As previously reported by The Inquisitr, Berkeley’s Emerson Elementary School recently held a “Parents’ Night Out” fundraiser in which they screened the recent live-action version of the Disney animated classic The Lion King, raising about $800 in the process.
Unfortunately for the school’s Parent-Teacher Association, they later got an email from Movie Licensing USA, a sort of clearinghouse for managing broadcast rights to movies, informing the organization that they had failed to properly secure the public performance rights to the film before screening it, and the PTA owed $250 — about a third of what they’d raised.
PTA President David Rose was aghast.
“One of the dads bought the movie at Best Buy. He owned it. We literally had no idea we were breaking any rules,” he said, adding that the PTA would “somewhat begrudgingly” pay the fee.
“If we have to fork over a third of it to Disney, so be it. You know, lesson learned,” Rose said.
Disney’s seeming enthusiastic insistence on collecting a comparatively-trivial amount of money, albeit through a third party, rubbed the people of Emerson the wrong way, to put it mildly. The story, which made national headlines, also drew plenty of ire on social media.
Now, Disney CEO Bob Iger has apologized for the incident.
“Our company @WaltDisneyCo apologizes to the Emerson Elementary School PTA and I will personally donate to their fund raising initiative,” he tweeted.
Iger didn’t provide any further information, including how much he intends to donate it or how or when.
According to the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation, anyone who wants to screen a “public performance” of a movie must pay a $250 licensing fee to do so. And the rules are pretty strict — unless the film is shown to “a normal circle of family and its social acquaintances,” it’s a public performance and the fee must be paid. Furthermore, renting or owning the movie doesn’t make for an exception.
Disney, for its part, has been known to zealously protect its copyrighted intellectual property, at times contrary to what many had thought was reasonable. For example, in the late 1980s, as the Associated Press reported at the time, the company sued a Florida daycare center for putting up murals of Mickey Mouse and other characters on its walls.