Disney fines Calif. elementary school for showing 'The Lion King' at fundraiser

Lawrence Kim
February 5, 2020

The controversy started when the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) at Emerson Elementary School in Berkeley, Calif., showed the 2019 remake of "The Lion King" during a "parent's night out" event previous year, CNN reported.

"One of the dads bought the movie at Best Buy", David Rose, president of the school's PTA, said in a statement to CNN.

That was until Emerson Elementary School received an email from a licensing company Thursday - more than two months after the event - saying they had to pay $250 for illegally screening the movie.

USA copyright law forbids anyone from showing a film outside their home without obtaining a Public Performance license - a fact the Emerson PTA said it was not aware of. "You know, lesson learned", said Rose.

According to Corey Goellner, copyright licensing manager for Movie Licensing USA, Movie Licensing USA is an exclusive licensing agent for 95% of major movie studios, which includes Disney.

Berkeley City Council member Lori Droste, who is also a parent at Emerson Elementary, believes Disney is being unfair. But when it comes to this $250 movie-screening fee, the issue goes much deeper than just licensing. She accused the mega-corporation of underpaying on local property tax laws thanks to a proposition passed in 1979, which in turn left area schools severely underfunded and in need of such fundraisers.

"Here you have a company that makes so much money and we have schools that are struggling so much", Droste said. 'What I thought about was just the irony of paying a multi-billion dollar company essentially ask a school to pay up'.

The company did not have records of Emerson having a license with the company or its parent company - Swank Motion Pictures - for the showing, Goellner said in an email to the Emerson PTA. He added that he and the PTA were "surprised" when they received the notice and had to "look up" if the company existed.

The parents' night out fundraiser had a $15 per child admission fee - although no child would be turned away if parents couldn't pay that amount - which would benefit the PTA's programs. Sure, I get that but coming after an elementary school? If you share the same market as the contributor of this article, you may not use it on any platform.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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