Disney CEO Bob Iger is personally apologizing to a parent-teacher association group after a California elementary school was fined for buying a physical version of The Lion King and playing it during a fundraising event.
“Our company [Disney] apologizes to the Emerson Elementary School PTA and I will personally donate to their fund raising initiative,” Iger tweeted this morning.
The case is a bizarre one. Emerson Elementary School in Berkeley, California, was fined $250 by licensing firm Movie Licensing USA for playing the movie during a “parent’s night out” fundraiser that raised $800, according to CNN. The fundraiser was set up to help out teachers and bring more money into the school, according to a tweet from the Emerson PTA.
Movie Licensing USA, a licensing firm that works with Disney and a number of other companies, sent an email to Emerson Elementary, letting it know the firm was alerted to the PTA’s screening, and the school was facing a $250 fine as a result for showing a movie for which it didn’t have the licensing rights. The email, which was obtained by CNN, noted that “any time a movie is shown outside of the home, legal permission is needed to show it, as it is considered a Public Performance.”
Members of the PTA didn’t know they had to license it. “One of the dads bought the movie at Best Buy,” PTA president David Rose told CNN. “He owned it. We literally had no idea we were breaking any rules.”
There are a number of unanswered questions. How did Movie Licensing USA even find out about the event? Who alerted the company to a small fundraising event, which led the firm to take action? Disney is notorious for its copyright takedown strategy, but it’s usually over parts of its movies ending up on YouTube or other hosting sites or merchandise using characters from its properties — not a fundraising event where a movie purchased by a local father was shown.
At least Iger is trying to rectify the situation. But it doesn’t answer any of the questions listed above. The Verge has reached out to Disney and Movie Licensing USA for more information.