Thumbs Down to Roger Ebert

by Johnny Debacle

Who likes movies and has two thumbsRoger Ebert is having a spat with his employer.

In a statement released Friday, the TV show’s distributor, Disney-ABC Domestic Television, said Ebert had “exercised his right to withhold use of the ‘thumbs’ until a new contract is signed.” Ebert is a copyright holder on the signature “thumbs up, thumbs down” judgment that’s part of each film review.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning critic responded in a statement Saturday on his website, saying he “had made it clear the Thumbs could remain during good-faith negotiations,” contrary to Disney’s press release.

When the founding fathers were drafting the Constitution, the thought that a binary thumbs up or down gesture would be copyrighted never crossed the brains that lay under their ridiculous wigs. This is something that needs to be protected for the author’s lifetime plus 70 years? Otherwise Ebert (and Siskel) would have had no incentive to create have invented it, you know, other than their hugely successful movie review show.

The only upside to this development is knowing that Disney (NYSE: DIS) is the party unable to use the Thumbs. Disney has been the semi-secret driver of the changes in copyright law over the last two decades, greatly extending their control of Mickey Mouse & Co, long after Walt kicked the can. Now, instead of being able for Ebert to have one too many Boston Cremes, they are forced to negotiate.

Recommendation: You have been living off Valley of The Dolls and Gene Siskel’s halo for dozens of years, Roger Ebert, and I am short you and your absurd copyright. Thumbs down, two of them.

Share This, Please