May this failure be with you.
Disney faced ruthless backlash on Twitter this week as it hyped up the popular annual “Star Wars” hashtag “#MayThe4th” — while also appearing to claim the right to use any tweets using the tag — a riff on the line “May the Force be with you.”
“Celebrate the Saga! Reply with your favorite #StarWars memory and you may see it somewhere special on #MayThe4th,” Disney’s streaming service, Disney Plus, tweeted on Monday.
Mocking tweets came swiftly and in abundance.
“I was born on May 4th – does that mean you technically own my birthday? #MayThe4th,” one user tweeted.
James Felton quipped, “By sharing your message with me using #Caturday you agree to giving me all your cats….”
The company, appearing to try and save face, tweeted again more than five hours later clarifying that the terms and conditions only apple to replies to its original tweet that mention both #MayThe4th and @DisneyPlus handle.
But it was too late.
“Might have been an idea to have said this in the other tweet, and in a way that didn’t sound like a team of lawyers were going to do a smackdown on those who tweeted,” wrote @darylbaxter.
“Nice backpedal,” another added.
Someone else replied while including the handle for Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, asking, “At what point do you step in and specifically say that hash tags don’t belong to anyone?”
Intellectual property law experts appear to already have the answer. Michael Carrier, a law professor at Rutgers Law School, told The New York Times he doesn’t believe Disney has the rights to someone else’s tweets — even as described in the company’s most narrowly defined terms.
“Copyright exists to protect creation and it exists from the moment that you create something,” Carrier told the paper.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re sending a message to Disney, it doesn’t matter if you’re using a hashtag that Disney said to use, it doesn’t matter if you mention Disney Plus,” he added.