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Disney executive apologizes to school over “Lion King” fine

Berkeley’s Emerson Elementary School. (Photo: Google Maps)

The Walt Disney Company’s chief executive Bob Iger apologized on Thursday after a third party compliance firm asked a Northern California school to pay a fee over an illegal screening of “The Lion King” last year.

In November, Movie Licensing USA asked the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) at Emerson Elementary School in Berkeley to pay a $250 licensing fee after learning about a fundraiser initiative where members of the public were encouraged to pay at least $15 to watch a screening of the Disney-owned movie.

“If a movie is shown for any entertainment reason — even in the classroom, it is required by law that the school obtains a Public Performance license,” the letter sent to the school read.

An official with the PTA said a parent at the school purchased a copy of the movie at a local electronics retailer and wasn’t aware they were breaking any rules by showing it in public, even though many big-studio movies carry a warning on the packaging and during the movie itself that warns against the practice.

The fee became national news after a member of the Berkeley city council complained about it on Twitter, noting Disney has avoided paying property taxes that could be used to fund public schools. Disney does not own a campus or office in Berkeley, though it does operate Pixar Animation Studios in nearby Emeryville.

One week after the letter was received by the school, Iger took to his personal Twitter account to apologize on behalf of the Walt Disney Company.

“I will personally donate to the (PTA) fundraising initiative,” Iger said.