Emerson Elementary School hosted a “parent’s night out” fundraiser and played Disney’sThe Lion King remake for the children. The Berkley, California school has since been fined $250 for illegally screening the movie. However, the parents had no idea they were doing anything illegal when they showed the movie to the students while the adults tried to get some fundraising done. When all is said and done, the fundraising event has to pay a Disney licensing company a third of what they earned that night.
“One of the dads bought the movie at Best Buy,” PTA president David Rose says. “He owned it. We literally had no idea we were breaking any rules.” The school has agreed to pay the $250 fine, but they are far from happy about it and have no idea how Disney and the licensing company found out they had screened the movie for students in the first place. Emerson Elementary received an email that partly reads, “Any time a movie is shown outside of the home, legal permission is needed to show it, as it is considered a Public Performance.” You can read another excerpt from the email below.
“Any time movies are shown without the proper license, copyright law is violated and the entity showing the movie can be fined by the studios. If a movie is shown for any entertainment reason — even in the classroom, it is required by law that the school obtains a Public Performance license.”
While Emerson Elementary is paying the fine, the parents are calling out Disney for their effect on the California school system over the last 41 years. Lori Droste, a parent at Emerson Elementary, who is also a Berkeley City Council member, believes that Disney’s decision to fine the school over The Lion King is a little unfair. She went on to detail why she feel that way. Droste explains.
“There was an initiative passed in 1979 called Proposition 13 which casts the property tax on all land, and so Disney’s property tax rates are at 1978 values which translates into millions upon millions of dollars a year that Disney is not paying. Because of that, our schools are now extremely underfunded. We went from the ’70s being among the top education systems in the US to one of the lowest.”
Many see Disney as the enemy on this one, especially when it comes to fining a school. The PTA of Emerson was trying to fund after school programs, along with other things and now have to pay a third of that money to Disney, which they wouldn’t mind doing if the corporation was giving back to the community in a more meaningful way, as opposed to playing the system. Disney has yet to respond to the matter. “We would be enthusiastic about paying the license fee if Disney was willing to have their properties reassessed and pay some additional property taxes,” says Lori Droste.
Disney can pretty much do whatever it wants at this point in time. The Lion King made over $1 billion at the box office, which means it was a huge success and made a big profit for the studio. Lori Droste is using her position of power to bring more awareness to Disney’s business dealings in California on social media and many other parents and teachers are starting to get the word spread. CNN was the first to report this news.