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CMU Beef Of The Week #222: Deadmau5 v Disney

By | Published on Friday 5 September 2014

Deadmau5 mau5head logo

So, you’ve likely already seen the news that Disney is going after Deadmau5 and his logo, opposing a trademark application he submitted in the US last year. Its reasons for doing so apparently took 171 pages to list.

We don’t have time to go through all of those reasons right now, but it can be pretty easily boiled down to a simple soundbite. Deadmau5’s logo features a cartoon mouse with a round head and two big round ears. And Disney’s logo features, well… you know.

In a statement earlier this week, the producer’s lawyer Dina LaPolt pointed out that Deadmau5 has been using his logo, based on his on-stage headgear, for almost a decade. And given that he’s already managed to secure the trademark in 30 other countries, it seems a little odd for Disney to start complaining now.

She added that her client “will not be bullied by Disney and is prepared to fight to protect his rights to his property”.

That’s the sort of statement that usually leads to a tedious exchange of letters, possibly a trip to court, or maybe one of those always-disappointing out-of-court settlement things. But this story already has a twist. And who doesn’t like a good twist? No one. Except M Night Shyamalan. But that’s not important right now.

Sure, an exchange of letters has begun, but LaPolt has played a pretty impressive hand right off the bat. Though, to be fair, Disney pretty much walked right into this one.

Between 2009 and 2012, the Disney Channel ran a series called ‘Have A Laugh!’ One segment of this show was called ‘Re-Micks’, in which classic Mickey Mouse cartoons were cut up and turned into short music videos for a variety of songs by artists including The Black Eyed Peas, Miley Cyrus and The Beach Boys. Oh, and Deadmau5.

Since then, these videos have been pulled out of the show and turned into standalone videos and put up on the Disney website. While the music was seemingly cleared for the TV show, putting it on online is something, seemingly, for which Disney had not secured the proper rights.

In her letter, LaPolt states in no uncertain terms that Disney is infringing the copyright of her client. Not only that, but the copyright of EMI Music Publishing, Virgin Records and Ultra Records too. Because it’s always fun to wave a large corporate entity in someone’s face at a time like this.

But LaPolt wasn’t finished yet. Because just pointing out a two year old copyright infringement might seem petty and slightly irrelevant.

“In addition to Disney’s numerous acts of copyright infringement, the infringing video implicates the Zimmerman’s trademarks and rights in and to his name and likeness”, she continued. “Disney prominently features the deadmau5 mark next to the infringing video, implying a non-existent endorsement by Zimmerman”.

Yes, Disney might be opposing the registration of the mau5head logo as a trademark, but he already owns the rights to other logos and uses of the name Deadmau5.

“Again, we are unaware of any license allowing you the right to reproduce, distribute or otherwise exploit the deadmau5 mark or to exploit Zimmerman’s name and likeness in connection with same. Therefore, Disney’s current exploitation and for distribution of the infringing video constitutes infringement of Zimmerman’s rights of privacy and publicity, as well as unfair competition, trademark infringement, and interference with economic relations, among other causes of action under the California Civil Code (Sec. 3344), the United States Lanham Act (See. 1 125) and other applicable law”.

Well, there’s a kick in the goofies. I see your trademark opposition and raise you a trademark infringement. But would it have the desired effect? Having shared the letter on Twitter, Deadmau5 wrote: “Let’s test a theory. It takes em ten years to oppose a trademark, let’s see how long it takes em to take down a video”.

Not long, it turned out. Within hours the video featuring the producer’s track ‘Ghosts N Stuff’ was gone from the Disney website. And not only that; every single Re-Micks video that had been on the website previously was also gone. Which, as admissions of wrongdoing go, seems pretty clear cut. Possibly.

Whether it’ll have any effect on Disney’s opposition to the trademark opposition remains to be seen. Probably not, but we had fun, at least.

Let’s finish on a song, shall we? How about the Disney Re-Micks of Deadmau5’s ‘Ghosts N Stuff’, which, despite no longer being on the Disney website, is still very much on the Disney YouTube channel (for the time being):

UPDATE 5 Sep, 1.10pm: It seems Deadmau5 has issued a takedown notice against Disney’s video on YouTube now. Here’s the track’s official music video instead: