When we last checked in on Ron DeSantis’s war against Disney, wherein the Florida governor had vengefully dissolved the company’s special district status as retribution for its decision to speak out against his bigoted “Don’t Say Gay” law, that special district, Reedy Creek, had informed DeSantis that, actually, he didn’t have the power to do jack shit until paying off $1 billion in bond debt first. At this point it’s not clear what sort of legal recourse the Florida tyrant has against Mousetown, but he has gained an ally in his attempt to silence a private entity for the crime of disagreeing with him.
On Tuesday, Senator Josh Hawley—the Missouri lawmaker who claimed his First Amendment rights had been violated after Simon & Schuster elected not to publish his book—introduced a bill that would limit the copyright protections of Disney and other corporations not only moving forward but retroactively. In a press release announcing the legislation, Hawley wrote: “The age of Republican handouts to Big Business is over. Thanks to special copyright protections from Congress, woke corporations like Disney have earned billions while increasingly pandering to woke activists. It’s time to take away Disney’s special privileges and open up a new era of creativity and innovation.”
Setting aside the fact that Republicans absolutely love corporate handouts and would sooner endorse Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for president than actually put a stop to them, the bill in question has virtually no chance of passing, according to legal experts, and is thus simply about Hawley latching on to the GOP’s culture war du jour: that Disney wants to corrupt our children. “That is a blatantly unconstitutional taking of property without compensation,” Professor Paul Goldstein, an intellectual property expert at Stanford Law School, told Variety’s Gene Maddaus. “Josh Hawley either slept through his time at Yale Law School or knows his proposed taking of Disney’s intellectual property without compensation is flagrantly unconstitutional,” constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe tweeted. “Maybe both. What a piece of work!” Hilariously, if the bill actually were to pass, it would destroy the livelihoods of millions of average Americans, i.e., the people Hawley and company claim to care about. “Copyright contributes $1.5 trillion to the U.S. economy and employs 5.7 million Americans,” Keith Kupferschmid, CEO of the Copyright Alliance, told Maddaus. “This legislation would harm those millions of everyday Americans in all 50 states who rely on copyright for their livelihoods in creative industries largely dominated by independent and small businesses.”
Hawley is just the latest conservative to attempt to scare parents into thinking the supposedly “woke” Disney is trying to put evil LGBTQ+ thoughts into their kids’ heads. Senator Ted Cruz claimed last month that Disney programming would now involve “Mickey and Pluto going at it.” Just over a week later, DeSantis insisted on Fox News that Disney “has pledged itself to attacking the parents” in Florida and “has very high-up people talking about injecting transsexualism into programming for young kids.” (DeSantis was seemingly referring to comments made by a Disney executive who said in March that the company has a goal of making half of all its characters members of underrepresented groups, a commitment to inclusivity that apparently is a no-go for the governor of Florida. That executive also said Disney should produce more narratives in which gay characters can simply be characters, rather than have their gayness be the focus of the story. DeSantis and company have interpreted that to mean—or dishonestly tried to make people think that means—explicit sex scenes. Which quite obviously says more about them than it does about Disney or the LGBTQ+ community.)
Hawley’s stunt bill also comes less than two months after he shamelessly smeared Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson by falsely suggesting that she might use her seat on the bench to “protect child sex predators.”
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