December 3, 2007

Donald Duck magazine takes kids’ money for copyright lesson

Filed under: Comics by Branko Collin @ 2:17 pm
Illustration copyright 2007 Disney.
– Scrooge: Plus a fine for PIRACY! Ten thousand euro, you sneaky thief!
– Donald: M-mercy! I am so sorry! And I finally BOUGHT the original CD!

This week Donald Duck magazine has decided that their customers should be treated to what amounts to a lesson about copyright. In a two page story (issue 49-2007) Huey, Dewey and Lewey download the latest Jan Goudsmid CD, but only so that they can already listen to it until they can afford to buy the real thing. Donald Duck suddenly realises how much money he could make if he bought a 20 euro CD and sold 100 copies at 10 euro a piece, and starts to put his nefarious scheme into practice. But record company owner Scrooge McDuck finds out and puts a stop to Donald’s plan.

Downloading music for private use is legal in the Netherlands, but selling unlicensed copies is not. The over-the-top moralistic tone of the story caught the attention of FOK forum subscribers, who immediately started pointing to the similarities between this story and the Brein foundation’s party line. The dialogue is preposterous at times. Donald: “Why don’t you guys keep this [downloaded copy]?” The nephews: “But that’s not fair! This CD is COPYRIGHTED! If nobody would buy CDs anymore, the record companies and artists would become beggars!” (Remember: the record company is owned by Scrooge McDuck.) One of the FOK forum subscribers: “They used to print »(advertisement)« about items like that.”

Disclaimer: I have written for Donald Duck magazine myself. Although they paid significantly less than the competing Sjors en Sjimmie franchise, it was always fun to write stories for them, simply because they pretty much let you decide what to write. As a result, stories for the magazine may have a tone of voice that implies grown-ups talking down to kids, but typically the stories are just fun adventures. Moralistic tales like this copyright story are rare. Indeed, in the next story of this week’s issue Chip ‘n’ Dale try to break into what looks like a military compound in order to steal nuts. Their three attempts fail because the compound is well secured – even underground – indicating the owners’ unambiguous desire to keep out intruders. But in the end, the two chipmunks luck out, and end up with a mountain of nuts. Moral of that Disney story: crime pays.

Also: the MPAA is a member of Brein. Disney is a member of the MPAA.

Update December 4: Thom Roep (Dutch), Donald Duck’s editor-in-chief, denies to FOK that the Brein foundation is in any way connected with this story, and admits that the dialogue is a little heavy handed for a magazine that dubs itself “het vrolijke weekblad” (the happy weekly):

Specifically the things that the nephews say on page 25, frame 7 [the bit I quoted before – Branko] should have been a lot less goody-two-shoes, and does indeed not correspond to the style of the magazine, which often tries to look at certain situations with a somewhat cheeky wink. We regret it a lot that this story has caused so much irritation and reactions, and we will definitely stay alert to remain a “happy weekly” in the future.

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