Mickey Mouse Enters Public Domain, Quickly Turns Evil

'Steamboat Willie' character gets horror film treatment
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 2, 2024 1:38 PM CST

It's officially 2024, which means Disney's Mickey Mouse, as he originally appeared in 1928, has entered the public domain. And as was probably to be expected following 2023's slasher version of Winnie the Pooh, the character has already been turned into a cold-blooded killer via meme, video game, and horror flick, per the Guardian. The early black-and-white depictions of both Mickey and Minnie Mouse as seen in 1928's Steamboat Willie and Plane Crazy "can now legally be shared, performed, reused, repurposed or sampled," the BBC reports, noting US copyright law states the rights to characters can only be held for 95 years. However, more modern versions of the characters, with voices and color, are still protected. Mickey first appeared in color in 1935's The Band Concert.

"We will, of course, continue to protect our rights in the more modern versions of Mickey Mouse and other works that remain subject to copyright, and we will work to safeguard against consumer confusion caused by unauthorized uses of Mickey and our other iconic characters," Disney says in a statement, per Deadline, which notes the trademark of Mickey is "separate from copyright and has no expiration." Other works that entered the public domain Monday, according to the Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain, include AA Milne's The House at Pooh Corner, the first book to introduce the character Tigger; JM Barrie's script for his Peter Pan play; Virginia Woolf's Orlando; DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover; and Charlie Chaplin's silent romantic comedy The Circus. (More Mickey Mouse stories.)

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