Mickey Mouse is one of the beloved Disney characters since it was created in 1928. However, Walt Disney Company is reportedly at risk of losing the exclusive rights to some of its most beloved characters, including Mickey Mouse, the cartoon figure known as the brand’s longtime mascot. According to US copyright law, 95 years is the length of time an anonymous or pseudo-anonymous body of artistic work receives protection. However, there are limitations that will still apply, despite the copyright’s expiration.
Daniel Mayeda, the associate director of the Documentary Film Legal Clinic at UCLA School of Law explained to The Guardian, “You can use the Mickey Mouse character as it was originally created to create your own Mickey Mouse stories or stories with this character.” The associate director went on to say, “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 trademark.”
Consequently, Disney, which is also called the House of Mouse because of the character, may lose the licence to Mickey Mouse in 2024. After the copyright gets expired Mickey will enter the public domain, meaning people would freely be able to use the character in their films and books, provided it does not infringe Disney’s trademark. The best example of this is the expired copyright on Winnie the Pooh. While aspects of the character, like his red shirt, remain trademarked, the character itself isn’t. Winnie is set to return to big screens in Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, a gory horror imagining of the bear.
The animated mouse first appeared in a 1928 film called ‘Steamboat Willie’. The character was co-created by Walt Disney himself and artist Ub Iwerks. An anthropomorphic mouse, the character was meant to be a replacement for an earlier Disney character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Mickey Mouse is best known for its trademark appearance featuring red shorts with two white dots, yellow gloves, and big yellow shoes.
Moreover, Mickey Mouse holds the honour of being the first cartoon character to have its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In most of the stories, Mickey appears with supporting characters like his girlfriend Minnie Mouse, his pet Pluto, Donald Duck, and Goofy, among others. The 1941 animated short featuring Mickey, titled ‘Lend a Paw’ won an Academy Award in the Best Animated Short Film category.