Mickey Mouse’s Copyright Has Expired, Now What?

For the first time, one of Disney’s marquee characters, Mickey himself, has entered the public domain 95 years after his creation.

His as well as Minnie’s copyright expired on January 1 this year, meaning they’re totally up for grabs … well sort of.

It’s only the earliest version of all the iconic characters from the 1928 musical comedy, Steamboat Willie.

Disney has historically pushed very hard for an extension of copyright protections. In fact, the United States’ Copyright Extension Act of 1998 was nicknamed the ‘Mickey Mouse Protection Act.’

In Thursday morning’s episode of The Briefing Rhianna Patrick spoke with artistic property law professor Jane Ginsburg to find out what it all means.

In the episode, Professor Ginsburg explained the fundamentals of copyright law and what it means when a character enters the public domain.

“The public domain means that once the copyright term has expired, anybody can exploit the work without permission and without paying for it,” she said.  

“You can republish Steamboat Willie, you can create new adventures with Steamboat Willie but you cannot change Steamboat Willie to look like Mickey Mouse,” she added.

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