Creative Redeployment: Disney, JoJo, and Copyright

What assets have we created in years past that are still ours for the using?

Ryder Kessler
Dec 31, 2018 · 3 min read

Did you all know about DCappella? I didn’t until I found myself sitting through an entire YouTube preroll ad: DCappella singing Aladdin’s Friend Like Me:

I’ve since downloaded it and listened on loop hundreds of times, marked my calendar for DCappella’s New York concert in February, and done some thinking about how genius Disney was in creating this group.

Disney owns musical catalogues from countless beloved properties and is constantly working to redeploy them—with live-action remakes, Broadway musicals, and, now, an a cappella group recording and performing much-loved tunes.

Why not gather seven cute twenty-something singers, dress them like the coolest people in 2002, and send them out on tour? It’s likely a very low-cost, low-lift way to inch the value of the company’s assets up to the $100B mark.

It reminded me of my elation at JoJo’s recent rerelease of her early albums, held hostage by her former record label. They’d taken all her music off of streaming services and online stores, vindictively robbing her of potential sales and exposure.

What did JoJo do? In addition to making great new music, she brilliantly took the asset she did own—the written songs—and re-recorded and re-released them. This move would be the great third-act twist in a TV show—the lightbulb moment that lets the protagonist reclaim her narrative.

Not only is the music back on sale for JoJo’s fans to buy and for her to bank, but they’re more mature renditions of the songs she wrote as a teen.

DCappella and JoJo’s rereleases are both examples of redeploying private assets to tap into new and unexpected value. But there are also shifts in the cultural and business landscape that come from private assets suddenly becoming free for all to redeploy.

Tomorrow marks the release of countless books into the public domain after works from 1923 had their 75-year copyrights extended to 95 years in 1998. The shift “will have profound consequences for publishers and literary estates, which stand to lose both money and creative control”:

Theater and film producers can adapt the works into movies, plays and musicals without having to secure rights. Rival publishing houses can issue new print editions, and scholars can publish new annotated versions and interpretations. Free digital copies will circulate online.

Now we’ll all be able to grab The Prophet and alchemize it into something new. (Khalil Gibran-cappella, anyone?)

Not only am I obsessed with JoJo’s counterpunching and Disney’s harmonizing, but I’m inspired to think about what personal assets I can redeploy in 2019.

What ideas, what writing, have I — have we all—created in years past that are still ours for the using? What assets are out there in the public domain that we can make uniquely our own?

Something to think about as I listen to Friend Like Me for the hundred-and-first time…

Urbane Sprawl

The disorganized spread of culture and cultivation

Ryder Kessler

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I like my life — I love my job, I love my friends, and I love meeting new people, like you.

Urbane Sprawl

The disorganized spread of culture and cultivation