LAMBENT RISK MANAGEMENT
Interesting Facts (pt.I)
Disney will lose the copyright to the original Mickey Mouse in 2024
Walt Disney's Hollywood business was facing bankruptcy in 1928 as a result of mounting debt and broken commitments. Amazingly, it just took one mouse to make a difference. Due to his appearance in the animated short film of the same name, Disney's most famous cartoon character's earliest incarnation is frequently referred to as Steamboat Willie; today, of course, everyone knows his name is Mickey Mouse. His first adventure's copyright protection will end in 2024, ushering the character into the public domain. (Subsequent iterations of Mickey will continue to be protected until the end of their respective copyrights.)
On November 18, 1928, Steamboat Willie debuted on television, becoming the first cartoon to have fully synced sound (most films at that time, animated and otherwise, were silent). Walt Disney copyrighted the character at a time when U.S. copyright law guaranteed protection for a total of 56 years because he was burnt by prior disputes over intellectual property. Yet the Walt Disney Corporation pushed for lengthier protection around the time of the animation's original expiration date, maintaining ownership for decades longer as a result of the Copyright Act of 1976 and the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998. (often referred to as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act).
For creators, marketers, and anyone that wish to exploit the Steamboat Willie character, dissolving Disney's copyright over the figure might create turbulent waters. That's because trademarks, which, unlike copyrights, can exist indefinitely, may allow Disney to retain some rights to its first mouse, potentially igniting disputes over fair use. The 95-year-old character might be revitalized by a surge of imaginative remixes, according to supporters of the public domain, who claim that this action preserves lost works and advances cultural legacy.