Disney’s iconic and ever-recognizable mascot, Mickey Mouse, is entering public domain next year – with some legal caveats, naturally.
Originally appearing in the 1928 cartoon Steamboat Willie, both Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse will become public domain, now that the United States’ copyright limit has been reached.
Since copyright is honored to the year, it’ll be 95 years since the original film on January 1st 2024, when both Mickey and Minnie Mouse are public domain and thus eligible for fan and commercial productions.
Disney has been quick to note that while Mickey and Minnie’s original appearances will no longer be copyrighted, their “more modern-day versions” naturally will.
Here’s a look at the original Steamboat Willie cartoon, which was directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks:
US copyright law protects things for up to 95 years, after companies lobbied Congress to extend copyright lengths over the decades, to its current limit of 95 years.
Fans, artists, and even companies may push the limits of what they can produce, like the recently released Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, which features a murderous Winnie the Pooh. Its sequel will feature Tigger, another Disney character entering public domain in 2024.
Disney has said it will “protect our rights” legally with respect to its remaining copyright.
The Walt Disney Company also celebrated its 100th anniversary this year, as it was originally incorporated way back in October 1923.