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Steamboat Willie

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NATIONAL — After nearly a century under Disney copyright, one version of a famous mouse will enter the public domain.

Before Mickey Mouse became the well-known figure that he is today, he was featured in a short film called “Steamboat Willie.” This animated short was released in 1928 and has been protected by copyright law.

But, that is about to change.

You may be asking how this is possible. Well, current laws only protect some properties for 95 years, meaning the mouse featured in “Steamboat Willie” has almost reached the end of this timeline.

This particular variant of the rodent will be open to public use on Jan. 1, 2024. Once in public domain, content can be used by artists of all types, including those who wish to take more…unique approaches.


Source: ROBYN BECK / Getty

That being said, the global company will still be able to address creators who they believe are misusing the character, thanks to trademark law.

So, what does this mean for the Mickey Mouse we see plastered on billboards and featured at amusement parks like Disneyland? In short: that version of the mouse is still safely owned by Disney alone.

Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Source: The Washington Post / Getty

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