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  • Writer's pictureAnimation America

The Future of Mickey Mouse: What Joining the Public Domain Means for Disney's Iconic Character

Updated: Jan 5

For almost a long time, the picture of Mickey Mouse has been hitched to the Walt Disney Organization brand, yet on January 1, 2024, Disney's copyright of "Steamboat Willie," Walt Disney's most memorable short film highlighting Mickey Mouse, will terminate.

That implies that one of the organization's earliest cycles of its adored mouse will open up for public use.





"Steamboat Willie" versus current Mickey"


"Steamboat Willie" debuted in 1928, assisting send off Mickey With mousing and Walt Disney into the stratosphere. Since US intellectual property regulation, which was last refreshed by Congress in 1998, permits copyright to be held for a considerable length of time, Disney's only case to the person is going to end.


Mickey isn't the main exemplary person to enter the public area lately. On January 1, 2022, the copyright on A. A. Milne's unique Winnie the Pooh character additionally lapsed. That has opened the entryway for additional imaginative translations of the anthropomorphic teddy bear, including the 2023 slasher film, "Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey."






Will Disney's mouse mascot be re imagined in a similar manner? Stacey Lee, a Johns Hopkins Carey Business college teacher, said it's conceivable — however with provisos.

She advised, "You can take Steamboat Willie and do whatever you want with him."

"Nonetheless, Mickey Mouse, as we generally think about him, is trademarked, so he's still much under the ownership of Disney."




The Mickey Mouse of 1928 and the company's current mascot differ in a few ways. The Mickey of "Steamboat Willie" misses the mark on current Mickey's gloves and larger than average shoes, and his eyes are little dark ovals without students.

In a statement, a Disney representative said the cutting edge variant of Mickey won't be impacted by the copyright lapse.

"Since Mickey Mouse's most memorable appearance in the 1928 short film Steamboat Willie, individuals have related the person with Disney's accounts, encounters, and credible items. That won't change when the copyright in the Steamboat Willie film terminates," the representative said.




Walt Disney in 1941 with a sketch of Mickey Mouse
Walt Disney in 1941

"More current variants of Mickey will stay unaffected by the termination of the Steamboat Willie copyright, and Mickey will keep on assuming a main part as a worldwide representative for the Walt Disney Organization in our narrating, amusement park attractions, and product."

Disney isn't surrendering its renowned mouse

Because of the organization's brand name on later emphases of Mickey Mouse, you won't see Mickey filling in as another organization's mascot either, Lee said

"Very much like the Nike Swoosh and Tiffany Blue, Disney possesses Mickey," Lee said. " It can't be used in that way that people can recognize it for advertising.





Notwithstanding the copyright lapse, taking on Disney's popular mouse might demonstrate "something precarious to do," Lee said. " They will sue you if they believe that you are tarnishing or diluting their brand. This is problematic.

In any case, a few exemptions exist to Disney's firm grasp on its friendly mouse. Indeed, even the more present day rendition of Mickey Mouse can be displayed for instructive purposes, parody or satire, Lee said.

The Disney representative affirmed that the organization intends to be proactive in safeguarding its image.





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