Mickey Mouse Goes Public: Disney Icon Enters Domain, Sparks Creative and Legal Buzz

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Walt Disney Co (NYSE:DIS) faces a new era as Mickey Mouse, its iconic character, enters the public domain on January 1, almost a century after his first appearance. 

This transition allows for potential remakes and adaptations of nature but also sets the stage for possible legal confrontations with Disney. 

The copyright on "Steamboat Willie," the 1928 short animation featuring Mickey Mouse, expires after 95 years under US law. 

Jennifer Jenkins, Director of the Centre for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke Law School, views this as a highly symbolic and eagerly awaited moment in intellectual property rights, SCMP reports.

 

Walt Disney Co (NYSE:DIS) faces a new era as Mickey Mouse, its iconic character, enters the public domain on January 1, almost a century after his first appearance. 

This transition allows for potential remakes and adaptations of nature but also sets the stage for possible legal confrontations with Disney. 

The copyright on "Steamboat Willie," the 1928 short animation featuring Mickey Mouse, expires after 95 years under US law. 

Jennifer Jenkins, Director of the Centre for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke Law School, views this as a highly symbolic and eagerly awaited moment in intellectual property rights, SCMP reports.

Also Read: Disney Reevaluates TV Network Holdings Amid Streaming Shift, Mulls Future of ABC, FX, and More

The public domain status permits the unrestricted use and adaptation of "Steamboat Willie" and "Plane Crazy," another Disney animation from 1928. 

This includes the early versions of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. However, later iterations of these characters, such as those in the 1940 film "Fantasia," are still protected by copyright.

While this opens opportunities for artists, it also raises legal complexities. Disney intends to safeguard its rights in the more modern versions of Mickey Mouse and other works still subject to copyright. 

The company also maintains trademarks, which protect against misleading consumers about the origin of products featuring Mickey Mouse.

Legal expert Justin Hughes from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles cautioned about potential legal disputes and Disney's need to educate the public about the difference between the public domain and copyrighted versions of Mickey Mouse. 

As copyrights and trademarks serve different purposes, with trademarks renewable indefinitely, the situation presents a challenge. 

Disney will likely defend its trademark rights, making it essential for artists and businesses to navigate these legal intricacies carefully.

The stock lost 2.3% last month versus the SPDR S&P 500 (NYSE:SPY), which gained 4.9%.

Price Actions: DIS shares traded lower by 0.39% at $90.05 on the last check Friday.

Also Read: Disney's Sports Betting Leap Sparks Concerns Among Mickey Mouse Fans

Disclaimer: This content was partially produced with the help of AI tools and was reviewed and published by Benzinga editors.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

 

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