Mickey Mouse is the latest much-loved character to age out of U.S. copyright law, following in the footsteps of everyone’s favourite bear with no pants, Winnie the Pooh.
As detailed by The Guardian, Disney could soon lose the exclusive rights to some of the characters most responsible for the brand’s universal recognition. Including, of course, the mouse that acts as its mascot.
U.S. law indicates that works surpassing the 95-year mark enter the public domain for free use in any profiting medium (unless there’s corporate involvement). The copyrights are subject to a time limit, usually 70 years after the death of the author or 95 years after the publication of the work.
Mickey Mouse turns 95 next year. October 1, to be exact.
When Mickey Mouse first appeared back in 1928, Disney’s copyright was protected for 56 years.
Mickey Mouse first appeared in the black and white cartoon Steamboat Willie. Way back in 1928. The cartoon is notable for being both Mickey and Minnie’s debut, and also the start of a new era of American animated short subjects.
The TL;DR of the law is that once the copyright expires, Mickey Mouse becomes part of the public domain, which allows anyone wishing to use characters or concepts to forgo requesting permission or paying copyright charges to Disney.
Let’s just hope we don’t see some terrifying stuff, like we did with Pooh, when he aged out of copyright earlier this year.