Many years ago, I overheard in casual conversation that Walt Disney World was essentially a country within a country, a privately-owned nation in which the laws of the U.S. don't apply.
I've never been there (or any Disney property), nor have I ever been a big "Disney person," so I have no firsthand experience with any of this. But now I'm adult with some understanding of the law, and it strikes me that I've never in all the intervening years stumbled across any information contradicting that statement.
Walt Disney World is located within a special jurisdiction (created for Disney) called the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Per Wikpedia, this is an area of ~40 mi2, within which the Disney company has "almost total autonomy," granted to it by The Florida State Legislature.
Within the District, the Disney company appears to be the sole provider of law enforcement, EMS, fire-fighting, utilities & sewage, and the like. Disney also controls building codes and zoning within the District.
The local government seems to consist of a Board of five people, all high-ranking employees of the Disney company, "elected" by the other residents (all Disney employees themselves; Wikipedia suggests there are only a couple dozen such residents).
It appears to me that a for-profit entertainment company has the legal authority to dictate the form and members of the local government, the laws that apply to everyone within the District (residents and visitors), and to exercise complete control over the enforcement of those laws (through its literal ownership of the police).
Just to be clear: this is not a question about copyright or other intellectual property law. I'm thinking about questions like:
- Are people within the District protected from unreasonable search and seizure? (And is the definition of "unreasonable" importantly different than in the rest of the U.S.?)
- Are Miranda warnings required when District police arrest someone? Do people arrested by Disney police actually have any rights?
- Could a Disney official who lives in the District own slaves?
- Could a brothel operate within the District? What about an opium den, or a meth lab?
- Would it be illegal for a visitor to bribe a Disney official to tolerate (or even facilitate) a hub for human trafficking?
- If authorities in Gainesville suspected that members of Disney EMS were sexually exploiting female patients, could the District obstruct the investigation by destroying evidence and medical records, and refusing to provide Gainesville police access to the suspects?
- What's to stop a high-ranking Disney executive from murdering someone within the District and then wielding their position within the company, which appears tantamount to legal authority, to effect a cover-up?