Which Version of Mickey is Now Part of the Public Domain?

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Mickey Public Domain

Hey there, Disney fans and creative minds! Guess what? An early version of our beloved Mickey Mouse has just hopped into the public domain, and it’s quite the talk of the town! For years, the Walt Disney Company held on tight to Mickey, but today marks a new chapter in his story.

Mickey Public Domain

Let’s rewind to 1928. Picture this: a black-and-white Mickey in “Steamboat Willie,” minus his now-famous gloves and those oversized shoes. This Mickey had simpler, small black oval eyes – quite different from the Mickey we know and love today. It’s this vintage version of Mickey that’s stepping out into the public domain.

For 95 years, Disney fiercely guarded Mickey’s copyright, even influencing legislation to keep him under their wing. Some folks cheekily called this the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act.” Jennifer Jenkins, a law professor at Duke, shared this tidbit with The Associated Press.

But as of January 1, 2024, things have changed. This iconic character, at least in his early form, is now up for grabs, creatively speaking. However, don’t think this means all versions of Mickey are free to use. A Disney spokesperson made it clear to CNN that the more modern Mickeys are still under Disney’s watchful eye. They’re determined to keep Mickey as their global ambassador, gracing our screens, theme parks, and merchandise.

Disney’s also on guard against any mix-ups. They’re all about protecting their rights to the newer Mickeys and making sure there’s no confusion with unauthorized uses of their star mouse.

Thinking of using early Mickey in your next project? Tread carefully. Harvard Law School’s Rebecca Tushnet advises that to steer clear of copyright issues, any new creations should be distinctly original and based on “Steamboat Willie” Mickey.

Mickey’s not the first to join the public domain party. Remember Winnie the Pooh? In 2022, his original version also became free for all, leading to some… unexpected interpretations, like the slasher film “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey.”

So, there you have it! A piece of Disney history is now a creative playground for artists and storytellers. Just remember, when it comes to using Mickey, it’s all about honoring his roots in “Steamboat Willie” while bringing your unique twist. Happy creating!

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Meet the Author: Nate Bishop

I’m a die-hard Disney fan with 38 years of visits under my belt, having stepped into Disney World 120+ times. Proud to be a Disney Annual Passholder, a Vacation Club member since ’92, a Castaway Club Member, and a runDisney enthusiast. Oh, and I’ve graduated from the Disney College of Knowledge. Need Disney insights or planning tips? I’m your guy!


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