This is a story about how perception can be bigger than the law. Here’s a recent Mickey Mouse t-shirt design put on the market by Disney.
And, here’s the Joy Division album cover that ‘inspired’ it all. Unknown Pleasures, circa 1979.
Outrageous? This wasn’t explicity licensed, and royalties were not offered to the band. “I was quite angry when I first saw it. No one asked us,” Joy Division drummer Stephen Morris immediately blasted. “They’re trading off the band and our album cover. I don’t like the design at all. It’s horrible.”
Fans felt the same way, and started complaining. Which is why Disney quickly yanked the t-shirt from its online stores and parks – even through they didn’t have to. In fact, this ‘inspiration’ was totally legit: it turns out that Joy Division found the illustration from the
Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy, and it was all public domain.
Which says something about the situation surrounding Disney, one of the staunchest defenders of copyright in the world. Because even though Disney was legally allowed to do this, the perception of lifting someone else’s work was the far greater concern. Joy Division made this famous – and really, that’s all that mattered here.