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Mickey Mouse became public domain

Mickey Mouse original 1928 persona became Public Domain as of 1st January, 2024

By Susan FourtanéPublished 3 months ago 3 min read
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Mickey Mouse in the 1928 short film Steamboat Willie, in Public Domain as of 1 Jan 2024

British spelling

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Most people on this planet know Mickey Mouse. Somehow, it gives me great joy to know that one of the most iconic characters created in the history of comic books, cartoons, and film is now free from the Walt Disney Company realm.

I simply couldn’t pass on the opportunity to write this and use some copyright free classic images as I ponder upon and admire the work of illustrators and filmmakers who created magnificent characters without the help of Generative AI, using only their imagination and creative human skills.

In today’s digital, technological era, it’s rather hard to imagine how illustrators and art creators worked so many decades in the past without the aid of a computer, software, and even AI.

Let’s learn about, remember, and admire pure human creation for just a moment.

Steamboat Willie

The copyright term of the 1928 animated Disney film, Steamboat Willie, has expired along with that of thousands of other important cultural art works which also have joined the public domain on the first day of 2024.

This is the original version of Mickey Mouse that becomes Public Domain on 1st January, 2024

The year 1928 was a prolific one in terms of human creativity. It brought an array of creative works created by humans, who were the only art creators at the time, unlike today.

These human works are still relevant and have become classics, often revived or remixed such as H.P. Lovecraft’s classic horror story, Call of Cthulhu (originally published in Weird Tales; now currently a popular role-playing survival horror video game), to the Threepenny Opera, a critique of income inequality and the excesses of capitalism that is surprisingly utterly relevant for our current era, and possibly eras to come.

Other creative works that have become public domain include classic works of literature such as Orlando by Virginia Woolfe, Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall, and Black Magic by Paul Mourad; children’s literature like House on Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne, which introduced the character Tigger, and Millions of Cats by Wanda Gág; movies like Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus, and Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman; and music like Dorothy Field’s I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby and Cole Porter’s Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love.

Mickey Mouse drawing, 1928, now in the public domain

Mickey Mouse Trademark: Important remarks

Mickey Mouse debuted in a Walt Disney cartoon on 15 May, 1928. In May this year, Mickey Mouse will be 96 years-old.

Disney losing the copyright of the early 1928 versions of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse means that now film-makers, cartoonist, novelists, writers, and anyone will be free to tell novel stories featuring the famous Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

However, let’s keep in mind that copyright and trademark are not the same.

Despite Disney losing its copyright over Mickey Mouse and the popular character becoming public domain, the character itself, like all major Disney characters, remains trademarked. This trademark lasts in perpetuity as long as it continues to be used commercially by its owner: Disney.

This means that when a particular Disney cartoon goes into the public domain, the characters themselves may not be used as trademarks by any other company or individual without the explicit authorisation of Disney.

Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse,1928, Public Domain

Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, Public Domain

If you plan on using Mickey Mouse or any other creative work from which recently became public domain, I recommend you to check by yourself everything concerning their copyright and trademark to make sure you will not be infringing anything.

For instance, Disney retains the Trademark for Mickey Mouse as its mascot and Mickey Mouse cannot become the mascot of your business or school or use Mickey Mouse to represent your product or service.

With that said, let’s enjoy and celebrate the extraordinary creation of iconic original Mickey Mouse!

Mickey Mouse, 1928, now in the public domain

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About the Creator

Susan Fourtané

Susan Fourtané is a Science and Technology Journalist, a professional writer with 18 years experience writing for global media and industry publications. She's a member of the ABSW, WFSJ, Society of Authors, and London Press Club.

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  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarran3 months ago

    So glad you explained the difference between copyright and trademark. Also, whoaaaa, can't believe Mickey is gonna be 96!

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