Thursday, January 4, 2024

Mickey Mouse and the Public Domain

From Dave Alvarez Studios.

First of all, let me assure you that Disney has the Mouse very well protected and that their lawyers are sitting there, quietly waiting for someone to get out of line.

A gray line situation perhaps.

The media has gone crazy proclaiming that Mickey Mouse is in the public domain. 

Well that's true and it's NOT true at the same time.

What's in the public domain?
-The 1928 Steamboat Willie version is. (The 'Plane Crazy' version as well.)
In short, Mickey in black and white with no gloves.

Oh! So that means that we all own Mickey Mouse now?
-No. Mickey Mouse as a character, is still protected by the Copyright laws and Trademark.

What's the difference between Copyright and Trademark?
-Copyrights primarily protect the rights of people who create literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other original works (like history tests, and software code). 
Trademarks can protect the use of a company's name and its product names, brand identity (like logos), and slogans.

What can't I do?
-You CAN'T create another black and white mouse and call it Mickey Mouse.
-You CAN'T market or sell the image of Mickey Mouse. So you better shelf those bed sheet and blankets ideas.
-The Copyright law didn't give you a New Year's gift. You DON'T own Mickey Mouse.
-You CAN'T use the name "Mickey Mouse".

What can I do?
- The public has gained the right to creatively use the first black-and-white Disney characters strictly as they appear in the 1928 animated short film “Steamboat Willie,” as well as that year’s silent version of the short film “Plane Crazy.”
-You CAN use Mickey and Minnie from ‘Steamboat Willie’ and ‘Plane Crazy,’ but you cannot use the aggregated later Mickey that, for example, appears in 'Fantasia.’ 

2024 looks like a busy year for Disney lawyers. 

Many don't get this and I blame the media for half-informing people.

The more modern versions of Mickey will remain unaffected by the expiration of the ‘Steamboat Willie’ copyright, and Mickey will continue to be the Disney symbol as we all know.


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