Rather than allow Mickey and friends to enter the public domain, Disney and its
friends - a group of Hollywood studios, music labels, and PACs representing
content owners - told Congress that they wanted an extension bill passed.
Prompted perhaps by the Disney group's lavish donations of campaign cash -
more than $6.3 million in 1997-98, according to the nonprofit Center for
Responsive Politics - Congress passed and President Clinton signed the
Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act.
The CTEA extended the term of protection by 20 years for works copyrighted
after January 1, 1923. Works copyrighted by individuals since 1978 got
"life plus 70" rather than the existing "life plus 50". Works made by or
for corporations (referred to as "works made for hire") got 95 years.
Works copyrighted before 1978 were shielded for 95 years, regardless of
how they were produced.
In all, tens of thousands of works that had been poised to enter the
public domain were maintained under private ownership until at least 2019.
Ironically, many of Disney's animated films are based on Nineteenth Century
public domain works, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella,
Pinocchio, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Alice in Wonderland, and The Jungle Book
(released exactly one year after Kipling's copyrights expired).