Disney could soon lose exclusive rights to its most iconic cartoon character as Mickey Mouse’s 95-year copyright is set to expire in two years.
Mickey will become available for the public domain in 2024 under US copyright law that states intellectual property on artistic work expires 95 years after first publication.
Mickey Mouse first appeared in the 1920s and has become both the symbol for media conglomerate Disney and one of the most recognizable animated characters.
When he first appeared in 1928, Disney’s copyright was protected for 56 years but as the beloved cartoon character approached the end of its copyright, Disney successfully lobbied for the Copyright Act of 1976 which extended protections to 75 years.
And then in 1998, Disney lobbied for a further extension, giving it protection for 95 years.
It is unclear whether the entertainment giant plans to make another move before 2023 to prevent Mickey from being moved into the public domain. DailyMail.com has reached out for comment.
Disney could soon lose exclusive rights to its most iconic cartoon character as Mickey Mouse’s 95-year copyright is set to expire in two years. Mickey Mouse is pictured with Walt Disney in 1928
Mickey will become available for the public domain in 2024, following US copyright laws that state intellectual property on artistic work expires at the 95-year mark
A room in the exhibition, called Sorcerer’s Way, features the classic 1940 film ‘Fantasia,’ and a still from the film is pictured above. In the feature-length movie, which is set to classical music, Mickey plays while the sorcerer is away
Once the copyright expires, anyone wishing to use characters or concepts from everyone’s favorite rodent will not have to request permission or pay copyright charges.
This means creatives could make Mickey the center of non-Disney stories.
The character could follow in the footsteps of Winnie the Pooh which recently entered the public domain after its copyright expired in January.
Since then, the children’s character has been portrayed as a serial killer in horror movie Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Horror.
Associate Director of the Film Legal Clinic at UCLA School of Law Daniel Mayeda told The Guardian that people will be allowed to develop new storylines for Mickey, but could still face copyright claims if they are too similar to Disney’s original.
‘You can use the Mickey Mouse character as it was originally created to create your own Mickey Mouse stories or stories with this character,’ Mayeda told the outlet.
US COPYRIGHT LAW – HOW WORK IS PROTECTED EVEN AFTER DEATH
American copyright laws give authors protection for their original work.
However, those rights are subjected to a time limit, which is usually 70 years after the death of the author or 95 years after publication of the work.
Congress can and has revised copyright law in the past.
The last time was in 1998, when it was decided that the time limit would be five short years of a century, a measure that was supported by Disney.
Before that, in 1976, the entertainment giant also lobbied for Title 17 of the Copyright Act, which extended protection for 75 years.
Source: Law Cornell
‘But if you do so in a way that people will think of Disney – which is kind of likely because they have been investing in this character for so long – then in theory, Disney could say you violated my copyright.’
The iconic Mickey had its origins in a cartoon called Hungry Hobos, which was made in 1928 and was only found in 2011.
The Disney cartoon featured a character who was the prototype for Mickey Mouse and was later discovered in a British film archive.
The black-and-white footage features Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and was drawn shortly before the character was abandoned and turned into Mickey Mouse that same year.
Mickey as its currently know first debuted in the film ‘Steamboat Willie,’ premiered at what was then the Colony Theater on Broadway on November 18, 1928.
One of the first cartoons to use synchronized sound and music, the film would make Mickey a star.
He has appeared in over 130 films next to his girlfriend Minnie Mouse, dog Pluto and friends Donald Duck and Goofy, among others.
Mickey’s copyright expiry follows Winnie the Pooh’s in January.
Fans of Winnie then reacted with horror after discovering in May that Jagged Edge Productions would put a dark twist on the loveable characters by AA Milne.
The production company announced an adaptation of the children’s classic known all over the world into a horror movie in which Pooh and Piglet become sick serial killers.
Fans said they were ‘devastated’ by the decision, and Winnie the Pooh should forever remain ‘sacrosanct.’
The movie, Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, was described by IMDB as a horror film following Pooh and Piglet as they go on a rampage after Christopher Robin abandons them.
Blood and Honey is based off of family favorite Winnie the Pooh, a series of tales by AA Milne
Winnie the Pooh may have his familiar yellow head and red shirt, but that’s where the similarities end
Shortly after Milne’s death in 1956, his widow sold the rights to Winnie the Pooh to Stephen Slesinger, who later sold them to Walt Disney Company
Forced to live by themselves the two turn to a life of crime and slaughter, becoming feral wild animals.
Shortly after Milne’s death in 1956, his widow sold the rights to Winnie the Pooh to Stephen Slesinger, who later sold them to Walt Disney Company.
The rights had been split between Milne’s widow and three other organizations, who all sold their rights to Disney in 2001.
Although the rights to the original Winnie the Pooh characters have now expired, Disney still has copyright over its own version of the bear, as well as all films and images associated with them.