Disney’s 95-year copyright on Mickey Mouse will be coming to an end in 2024 and will then enter the public domain.
Created on October 1st of 1928, Mickey Mouse has been a figurehead of Disney. But according to the U.S. Copyright law 95 years is the length of time an anonymous or pseudo-anonymous body of artistic work receives protection.
While Mickey Mouse will enter the public domain in 2024, this does not mean people have free reign to use the character however they please.
“You can use the Mickey Mouse character as it was originally created to create your own Mickey Mouse stories or stories with this character. 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,” said the associate director of the Documentary Film Legal Clinic at UCLA School of Law Daniel Mayeda.
So using Mickey Mouse in a way that could be construed as being produced by Disney will be the sticky area that arises following the end of the copyright.
Another point to bring up is that “Over the years, Mickey Mouse has gone through several transformations to his physical appearance and personality. In his early years, the impish and mischievous Mickey looked more rat-like, with a long pointy nose, black eyes, a smallish body with spindly legs and a long tail,” said the National Museum of American History.
This means that the original depiction of Mickey Mouse will be somewhat up for grabs but more recent versions still retain the copyright until they reach the 95-year mark set by the U.S. Copyright law.
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