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Recent Legal News on Mickey Mouse Entering Public Domain

Since January 1st this year, Disney is no longer in possession of an exclusive copyright over the earliest versions of Mickey Mouse.

Check out this brief summary of this legal news! 🎧📚


What does copyright mean?

Copyright is a legal right that gives creators control over the use and distribution of their original works, such as books, music, and art. It grants exclusive rights for a limited time, allowing creators to be compensated for their creations.

Copyright protection is automatic upon creation and lasts for the creator's lifetime plus 70 years, as per the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, applicable for works created on or after January 1, 1978. On the other hand, for works created before January 1, 1978, including Steamboat Willie from 1925, the copyright term was extended to 95 years.

As 2024 is the 95th year of the copyright protection of “Steamboat Willie” Mickey Mouse, anyone is now free to do what they want with them.

But remember, according to Disney’s official statement, “Modern versions of Mickey will remain unaffected by the expiration of the Steamboat Willie copyright, and Mickey will continue to play a leading role as a global ambassador for the Walt Disney Company in our storytelling, theme park attractions, and merchandise.”

Disney still have ways to protect Mickey Mouse after Jan. 1; it will still retain copyrights in the character’s more modern versions for a few more years.

So, creators, watch out! You're limited to using the Steamboat Willie rendition of Mickey Mouse for now.