SALT LAKE CITY — A new online petition is calling on Disney to drop its trademark on the song “Hakuna Matata" from “The Lion King.”
What’s going on: The petition, filed by Zimbabwean activist Shelton Mpala, accuses Disney and other companies of "looking to trademark languages, terms or phrases they didn't invent."
- “Hakuna Matata,” as any Disney fan will know, means “no worries” (for the rest of your daaays). The expression is common in Eastern and Southern African countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, The Guardian reports.
- Disney filed a trademark on the song in 1994 when the animated movie hit theaters, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
- Mpala told CNN he filed a petition "to draw attention to the appropriation of African culture and the importance of protecting our heritage, identity and culture from being exploited for financial gain by third parties."
- "This plundered artwork serves to enrich or benefit these museums and corporations and not the creators or people it's derived from," Mpala said.
However: Liz Lenjo, a Kenyan intellectual property and entertainment lawyer, told CNN that Disney “has not stolen anything.” Lenjo said social media blew the trademark out of proportion.
- "The use of 'Hakuna Matata' by Disney does not take away the value of the language," Lenjo told CNN. "East Africans or whoever speaks Swahili worldwide are not restricted from using the phrase."
- "The conversation on the internet has been blowing up because of a misconception and misunderstanding around intellectual property law, the ethos behind intellectual property law and the various regimes of protection."
Reactions: Professor Kimani Njogu, the founder of Twaweza Communications, which deals with media and culture, told The Guardian that Disney’s trademark is unethical.
- “These big companies located in the north are taking advantage of cultural expressions and lifestyles and cultural goods coming from Africa,” Njogu said. “They know very well that this expression is really the people’s property, created by people, popularised by people.”
- He said the petition can make an impact on multiple countries.
- “Is it ethical to appropriate products that come from the south, in Africa, and appropriate those, without the creators of those products benefiting — or without the permission of those who created the products in the first place?”
Bigger picture: Disney plans to release a live-action version of “The Lion King” next summer.