Mickey Mouse is now in Public Domain

In 1928, Walt Disney unveiled the iconic cartoon ‘Steamboat Willie’, introducing the world to the beloved character of Mickey Mouse. Beyond its creative brilliance, Mickey Mouse played a significant role in shaping copyright history. Walt Disney, recognizing the importance of protecting his creation, actively lobbied the U.S. government to extend copyright durations.
Initially, Disney succeeded in extending copyrights to 50 years after the author’s death. However, in 1998, the company achieved another milestone by lobbying for a further extension, granting Mickey Mouse copyrights for 95 years.
But on January 1st historical 95 years expired, as well as the copyrights on Mickey Mouse. Now this iconic mouse is in the public domain. The character has already made appearances in various forms, from horror movies to video game trailers.
Anyway, Disney hasn’t yet reconciled with the reality. It continues to undertake steps to prevent the use of Mickey Mouse. In particular, the company has taken measures to restrict the use of Mickey Mouse, even targeting platforms like YouTube. YouTube under Disney’s pressure actively stated to block display cartoon different channels. Even though the latter was already in public domain which means that the Steamboat Willie cartoon belongs the society and they can freely share, remix and repost the video.
It is noteworthy that copyright expired only on the 1928 version of Mickey Mouse. Disney continues to obtain copyright protection on the later versions of Mickey Mouse since a lot has changed over the years. Current versions of Mickey’s differ a lot from the Steamboat Willie Mickey.
But there still remains the following question: Are all the features of the last Mickey characters copyrightable? Debates on this matter continue to leave a space for legal discussions.

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