I was trying to sort a stack of movies chronologically. Most boxes contain a copyright notice e.g. “(c) 1985 Acme Pictures LLC“. However, Walt Disney Pictures consistently omits the year, e.g. “(c) Disney”. Why does Disney do things differently? Alternatively, why does the rest of the industry devote precious box space to the year in addition to the full name?

Since a counter example has been found, here are the titles I observed (all VHS copies):

  • Beauty and the Beast “(c) The Walt Disney Company”
  • Bedknobs and Broomsticks “(c) The Walt Disney Company”
  • Homeward Bound “(c) Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc.”
  • Sleeping Beauty “(c) Disney Enterprises, Inc.”
  • The Santa Clause “(c) The Walt Disney Company”

2 Answers 2


For works released after 1989, Copyright notices don't have any legal consequences in the United States. They are just a friendly reminder of who created the work and that they take their copyrights seriously. But those notices are not required anymore to enforce your copyrights on the works you created. If you have proof that you own the copyright on something and when it was created, and if it's still within the term limits, then you can take legal actions against people who violate your copyright.

Disney has a history of repeated worldwide lobbying for extending the expiration durations in copyright laws in order to avoid any of their classic cartoons from falling out of copyright protection. So it could be that they try to intentionally muddy the waters and make it harder to find out which of their works expire when. That way people are less sure about what Disney works are and are not in the public domain, making it more risky to use them. But that's just my theory.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Dale M
    Feb 24, 2021 at 0:45

Just to be clear - Disney makes lots and lots of money off its characters, movies yes but its characters are the cash cow.

It is very very likely that one of Disney's strategies to not give up these rights to characters is to revisit them continuously. By not supplying a date in their movies they are not giving reasonable expectations of usage at some further date.

(the idea that the largest film company in the world is trying to obscure dates on multimillion dollar movies, no that's not it, they know you can find the dates. Anyone with a basic web search can find these dates.)

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – feetwet
    Feb 24, 2021 at 20:46
  • 2
    Citations needed (for the last paragraph). You'd be surprised: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mickey_Mouse#Copyright_status
    – Dan M.
    Feb 25, 2021 at 13:39
  • @DanM. - You are having a hard time getting the meaning I will rephrase to make it easier for people reading quickly. Also you may want to visit the chat before commenting.
    – blankip
    Feb 25, 2021 at 15:57

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