Mickey Mouse & Others To Enter Public Domain

A report from Euronews that’s worth a quick scan if you are in the putting things on mugs and t-shirts game.. make sure you use the right Mickey!

Disney could soon lose exclusive rights to long-time mascot Mickey Mouse and many more of its beloved characters.

Since his creation in 1928, Mickey has become the cheerful face of the multi-billion dollar Disney brand.

But in 2024 – 95 years after his debut – the unassuming mouse will enter the public domain.

But aspiring creatives beware – there could be serious legal caveats to using the cartoon.

Mickey debuted in a black and white film ‘Steamboat Willie’ in 1928.

Over the ensuing nine decades, his appearance changed: the first Mickey had black eyes, small ears, and a pointy nose. He didn’t adopt his now-iconic red shorts until 1935.

It is only the early version of Mickey that is entering the public domain.

Later iterations of Mickey – variously thin and fat, and with and without eyebrows – are still under Disney copyright. They will enter the public domain at different points in coming decades.

People can now create their own stories with the original Mickey Mouse character. However, there are still legal hurdles like trademark law.

Under US copyright law, an ‘anonymous or pseudo-anonymous body of artistic work’ is only protected for 95 years, after which time it can be used freely.

So what does this mean for Disney – and which well-known characters will it have to share next?