Legal disputes are in sight due to the end of

Legal disputes are in sight due to the end of the copyright on Mickey Mouse

Walter Disney with a stuffed animal he created, Mickey Mouse (Photo: Facebook / The Walt Disney Family Museum @WDFMuseum)

Almost a century after its premiere on the big screen, Mickey Mouse enters the public domain this Monday, opening the door to possible remakes, spin-offs, adaptations… and legal battles with studios Disney.

The copyright of Steamboat Williea short black-and-white animated film from 1928 that first introduced viewers to the mischievous rodent that would become an icon of American pop culture is set to expire after 95 years, on January 1, 2024, according to the country's laws. North American.

The date is at the top of the calendar for everyone working in the entertainment industry, from filmmakers, fans and intellectual property lawyers to Disney executives who have helped push for a change in the law and an extension of copyright expiration in the past. Author. “This is a deeply symbolic and long-awaited moment,” he says. Jennifer JenkinsDirector of the Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain.

The first Mickey Mouse in 1928

Now everyone is free to copy, share, reuse and adapt Steamboat Willie And Crazy plane (another Disney animation from 1928) and early versions of the characters in it, including Mickey and Minnie.

A major caveat is that later versions of the characters, such as those in the film, are used Chic from 1940 are not in the public domain and cannot be copied without a visit from Disney lawyers. But artists would be free to create a “climate change awareness version” of it, for example Steamboat Willie in which Mickey's boat runs aground on a dry riverbed, or a feminist narrative in which Minnie takes the helm, says Jenkins. They would therefore take inspiration from imaginative reuses of other characters whose copyright has recently expired, such as: Sherlock Holmes And Winnie Pooh.

But it won't be a walk in the park. In a statement, the Disney company said it “will continue to protect its rights to more modern versions of Disney.” Mickey Mouse and other works that remain subject to copyright.” In fact, the version of Mickey in Steamboat Willie He's a lanky, mischievous creature that many young viewers wouldn't recognize. “What’s in the public realm is some kind of scary little black and white animal,” he notes. Justin HughesProfessor at Loyola Law School.

Walt Disney, the pioneering animator, theme park inventor and studio founder, with his famous character Mickey Mouse (Photo: Portal/Walt Disney Company)

“He Mickey Mouse The content most familiar to today's generations of Americans remains protected by copyright. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a legal dispute and Disney educates people on this point.”

Creators who dare to use newer elements of the character, such as his red shorts or white gloves, could face legal warnings, the researcher predicted. Additionally, although the copyright has expired, the trademark has not. Copyright law prevents unlicensed copying of creative works such as books, films and characters. They expire after a certain period of time.

Trademarks protect the source of a work and prevent someone else from creating a product that could mislead consumers into believing it came from the original author. They can be extended indefinitely. Disney said it would work to “protect consumers from confusion caused by the unauthorized use of Mickey and other iconic characters” from the studio. The company added a clip Steamboat Willie to the opening sequence of every Walt Disney Animation Studios film.

Photo of a statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse at Disney Park in Anaheim, California (Photo: EFE/Guillermo Azábal)

“They were very smart at Disney: they realized that the best thing they could do was establish this iconic sequence Steamboat Willie as a trademark,” says Hughes. And he points out that anyone who uses the classic image of Mickey at the helm of the ship on T-shirts, hats or mugs could face legal action. Other experts like Jenkins are more optimistic about public sector freedoms. “Our Supreme Court has made it clear that trademark rights cannot be used to circumvent what leads to the expiration of copyright,” he said.

Both sides agree that the law is likely to be tested in court soon. Anyone who wants to profit from the Disney mascot “should proceed with caution and legal advice,” concludes Hughes.

Source: AFP