Mickey Mouse was created by Walt Disney in 1928 and Disney has held the exclusive rights to the Mouse ever since. But as its 95th birthday approaches, Disney may have to give up the rights and release Mickey into the free world.
Mickey Mouse first appeared in Steamboat Willie, a 1928 American animated short film co-directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. Mickey will enter the public domain on 1st October 2024, almost 95 years after its creation. According to the US copyright laws, that is the period one can claim copyright on an anonymous or pseudo-anonymous body of artistic work.
Recently, Winnie the Pooh and his friend Piglet entered the public domain. Its copyright expired in January of 2022 ever since we have seen many people capitalizing on the beloved character. Most famous of which is Actor Ryan Renold’s playful commercial about Mint Mobile where he reads a children’s book about ‘Winnie the Screwed‘ a bear with a costly mobile phone bill.
Yet another not-so-playful take on the situation is the soon-to-be-released horror film Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey. It is written and directed by Rhys Waterfield. It seems to be about the bloody rampage of killing that the two pals adventure through after being abandoned by their friend Christopher Robin.
Experts on the matter say, though the copyright is expiring, it may not mean one would be able to use it without limitations.
He said the copyright expiration does not come without limitations. According to legal experts, Copyrights are time-limited, i.e. they expire after a certain period, but on the other hand, ‘Trademarks’ are not. So, in a nutshell, Disney could have a trademark on Mickey forever. This would mean, though you and I could use Mickey Mouse as one of the characters in our stories or videos, we can not do it in a way that makes people think it is associated with Disney. This little fact would make it almost impossible for a creator to use Mickey without violating Disney’s trademark.
We will have to wait and see what creative ways the internet finds to take Mickey into the free world.