Educators to Hebrew U.: Don't Let Disney Use Einstein's Name

Some argue Disney's Baby Einstein children's videos harm cognitive development and concentration.

An American coalition of parents, educators and health experts is urging the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to withdraw its permission for the Walt Disney Company to use Albert Einstein's name in its Baby Einstein series of children's videos.

Disney's $2.66 million contract with the university, which owns the rights to commercial use of the scientist's name and image, expires next year.

The push by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is part of a larger battle against children's videos, which it says should not be construed as educational tools.

"The number one reason infants and toddlers watch television is that their parents believe baby media is educational, an impression that was fostered by Baby Einstein's marketing over the years," said coalition member Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige, a professor of education at Lesley University in Massachusetts.

Dr. Allen Kanner, a child psychologist from California and a member of the coalition's board, says the connection between Baby Einstein and Hebrew University is disturbing because the university is helping Disney mislead the public by taking advantage of the Einstein name.

The money from selling trademark use goes partly to maintain the Einstein archives at the university.

The Hebrew University said it rejects many offers to pay for rights to Einstein's name, but that the Baby Einstein deal met all the criteria for use of the scientist's name and image. All such offers are examined carefully in an effort to protect the scientist's dignity, the university said.

"As the owner of the rights to the name and image of Albert Einstein, the Hebrew University contracts with business and other interests to use his name," the university said in a statement. "The commercial conditions are determined individually in each case in cooperation with Corbis Images, which represents the university on this matter."

Though Disney says it has not claimed that the videos are educational, Kanner says the company's promotional materials present the products as educational even though research has found that watching television can harm cognitive development and concentration.

If the university was unaware of the damage it could cause, it has a chance to correct it when the contract is up in 2010, Kanner said.

One-third of American babies between 6 months and 2 years old have at least one Baby Einstein video, according to a 2003 study, though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under 2 should not watch any television.

Baby Einstein, which was founded in 1997 and bought by Disney eight years ago, has an annual turnover of some $200 million.