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If I buy, say, a share in The Walt Disney Company, does that give me part ownership in the intellectual property?

Does this ownership then give me the right to copy it?

  • 1
    As a share holder, you may own (a small) part of the company, but it doesn't specify which part/asset of the company. As a Disney shareholder, you could be the proud owner of some miscellaneous office furniture ;-) – Pete Feb 13 at 14:47
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    A share of Disney stock gives you the same right to copy Disney's IP as it gives you the right to break off one of Mickey Mouse's ears at Disneyland: none. – Zach Lipton Feb 13 at 20:24
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No. Only the company owns the copyright, not its shareholders. A company is a separate legal entity with its own capacity to own property. Copyright is property, not infection that can be spread onto whoever is close enough. Pretty much like shareholders can't just share the use of the company's tangible assets, they can't wet their beaks in the copyright.

As a shareholder, what you could do is to appoint a director/CEO that will give you license to copy (or even transfer the copyright) — if you have enough shares to fire the current CEO and put yours. The CEO will get into legal trouble with other shareholders/creditors, but you'll still enjoy your right to copy.

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    The CEO works for all the shareholders and not only the one/s who put him in the place. If by giving the OP licence to copy he harms the company (for example it is established that Disney could have get $$$$ by selling that licence), other shareholders could sue (AFAIK both the CEO and the OP). Even if the OP is the only shareholder, some operations could be illegal if they end in a fraudulent bankruptcy (put all the assets in another corporation so that Disney files for bankruptcy and its creditors do not recover the money). – SJuan76 Feb 13 at 10:58
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    @SJuan76 Nice point, but I'm not too sure the OP could be sued (as opposed to his CEO) given there was no fraud but just reckless licensing. – Greendrake Feb 13 at 11:47
  • @Greendrake Thank you very much! The "tangible assets" analogy makes it clear. – danuker Feb 13 at 14:13
  • Apponinting a director/CEO is not enough. A shareholder would have to control the board to be able to issue such licences without much "legal trouble" from the other shareholders (and even then it might happen if it decreases the company's value too much). – Mindwin Feb 13 at 16:41
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    Note that whilst it is correct that the company owns the copyright, it is also the case that the shareholder owns [part of] the company. In the event of a liquidation, a normal shareholder would be entitled to a share in the proceeds of the sale of the company's assets (which would include any IP rights). – JBentley Feb 14 at 0:28

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