The One Disney Song That's Copyright Free
by Simon Brew
Disney makes a fair amount of money from music rights. And yet arguably its most-performed song earns it not a single penny.
The song in question is "It's A Small World," and it was written by the legendary songwriting duo Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman (who are behind a whole host of Disney's most popular songs). "It's A Small World" was written for an attraction at Walt Disney Studios theme park.
The ride in question at that stage was known as Children of the World, and Walt Disney guided the Shermans through his idea. They came up with "It's A Small World," and Disney—after suggesting one or two changes—renamed the ride after it. The song debuted at the New York World's Fair in 1964 and has been a staple of Disney theme parks ever since.
Yet despite the popularity of the song, Disney has never copyrighted "It's A Small World," which in turn has helped fuelled its worldwide success. The reason? It came from a request from UNICEF.
The song's World's Fair debut was part of an exhibit by Disney to salute UNICEF and the children of the world. The song has been seen as part of a gift to the world's children, after UNICEF asked Disney to leave the song copyright-free. As such, it's a tune that can blare out of all manner of toys without any money heading in Disney's direction. As a consequence, it's reckoned to be one of the most played songs in modern history.