Mickey in the Metaverse | 2235

As a symbol of the copyright regime of the 20thC. A permissive Mickey in the metaverse seems like an interesting experiment to try.

Full Show Notes: https://www.thejaymo.net/2022/10/01/301-mickey-in-the-metaverse/

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Mickey in the Metaverse

Back Episode 1914 I talked about how [Media Property Name] isn’t our friend

That show was the seed of the idea that became β€˜Cultural Fracking’. Another term that has spread out into the world. Even the writer/directors of Everything Everywhere All at Once used it in the LA times

But just because they aren’t our friends, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to them. Nor does it stop us from widely speculating on what they *might* be up to. 

So let’s do that.

If you didn’t know Disney is very interested in The Metaverse right now. They recently formed a Next Generation Storytelling and Consumer Experiences Unit

A group led by Senior Vice President Mike White (an OG geocities engineer) who joined Disney back in 2011.

According to his corporate bio β€œhe oversaw the deployment of the Park’s industry-leading products, apps, and connected experiences. The development of a portfolio of consumer products, cloud infrastructure, business data systems, mobile technologies, and proprietary game engine tech.”

I assume he’s been responsible for all the hybrid environment stuff Disney has been doing. Things like the MagicBand bracelets that have board credit card details, room key information and RFID location tracking. Also the AI based crowd projection and queue allocation systems like FastPass+ . Not to mention all their Drone shows, and the weird LARP hotel.

The unit has also hired Games Executive Mark Bozon away from Apple.

Let’s keep in mind that there are two parts to the units name. Next Generation Storytelling and Consumer Experiences.

Experience is of course a big Metaverse buzzword right now. But ask a room of people under 30 about the online social experiences they had growing up. Someone is going to say the MMO Club Penguin.

Disney ran Club Penguin from 2007-17. Which at peak had 200 million users. Back in 2007 it had 7 times more traffic than Second Life, and was the 8th largest social network in the world. Adjusted for inflation, that makes Club Penguin as big as TikTok!

It’s worth remembering the second metaverse wave at the turn of the millennium. After the launch of EverQuest in 1999, β€œover a hundred graphical virtual worlds had been announced as being in development” within two years

At one point Disney was running 4 MMOs simultaneously:

ToonTown launched in 2003. (Beating Eve Online for MMORPG game of the year). Pirates of the Caribbean Online, 2007. Pixie Hollow ’08, and of course Club Penguin.

Disney has decades of policies, safe guarding and institutional knowledge about online worlds.

It’s also been a pioneer in virtual production technologies. Utilising virtual sets like the volume on shows like Kenobi, and The Mandalorian. 

These developments, combined with game engines, and mixed reality hotels means that it won’t be long until you look out of a window in the Galactic Star Cruiser Hotel and see what’s going on in the metaverse in real time.

The tight integration around virtual production, of course, leads to virtual objects.

Disney launched its first NFTs’ last year with its Golden Moments collection. Earlier this year Polygon was the only native blockchain to be admitted to its NFT AI Accelerator Program . Also just this week brought us news that Disney is looking to hire a transaction lawyer to explore ‘aggressive’ NFT and DeFi plans.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Magicbands have native Web3 wallet infrastructure built in very soon. Perhaps also a role out of site specific digital collectables. Something like its Fab 50 statues, mixed with Hello Lamppost and geocaching. 

It’s also as you will recall the ‘Next Generation Storytelling’ unit. Right now, remarkable things are happening in Web3 with Permissive IPs, Power Fandoms and collective storytelling projects.

All the most successful projects either have very permissive licences like BAYC. Or are completely licensed CC0 (public domain). See Simon’s work with ​​Untitled Frontier, or WAGDI, Nouns, LOOT etc . It’s ironic culture warriors laughed about right clicking NFTs and the web3 community went all in. Waiving copyright on the JPGs in all jurisdictions worldwide. 

It’s clear to me that β€˜Next generation storytelling’ is going to be built on cannon, lore and internet native use mechanisms. AKA smart contracts. 

You know what else falls into the public domain in 2024?

Mickey mouse. 

Well, Steamboat Willie specifically. 

Come January 2024 will all will be able to copy, distribute, publicly perform or display that beedie eyed and non gloved mouse in part or in its entirety. There is very little Disney can do about it.

The public will be free to create new stories involving the original iteration of Mickey Mouse. Change the character design and incorporate original elements. 

What the public will not be able to do, however. Is violate Disney’s rats nest of steamboat willie trademarks held in perpetuity. Nor create derivative work that infringes upon the more modern versions of the character design. Mickey got his white gloves and pupils in 1940 for example.But character development is a tricky and subtle thing to argue in court. And will become harder and harder as the years move on.

So Disney needs future infrastructure to manage Mickey in the metaverse

It wouldn’t surprise me if Disney adopts some sort of Holly+ style, permissive IP process where fan art and works can be made β€˜official’. Given a stamp of approval from the brand via Smart contract. Perhaps giving the creator access to licensing and trademarks, rev share deals, and the official virtual store. This sort of infrastructure will be even more important in the new spawning paradigm brought about by imagesynthesis tools.

In some pleasing symmetry with the history of film, SteamBoat Willie is going to be *everywhere* in the metaverse. 

As a symbol of the evil copyright regime of the 20thC. A permissive Mickey would seem like an interesting experiment from a media property name that isn’t your friend.


The script above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in the episode in the edit.

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