Mickey Mouse has been the symbol of Disney for a long time now. But the Mouse House might now lose the copyright to some of its characters that made the studio over the years, including the mouse that has been its Mascot. This is due to the US copyright law. The studio is the biggest giant in the entertainment industry. The studio has only grown over the years with its mergers with big studios including Marvel Studios. They have even launched their own streaming platform that has been giving streaming giants like Netflix strong competition.
Disney Might lose its mascot – Mickey Mouse
The Mouse House is losing its Mouse as it will enter the public domain in 2024. He was created on October 1st, 1928 and according to copyright law, after 95 years the copyright expires on an artistic work by an anonymous or pseudo-anonymous body. Daniel Mayeda, who is the Associate Director of the Documentary Film Legal Clinic at UCLA School of Law, has said that the expiration comes with limitations as well. He is also a media and entertainment lawyer.
He explained, “You can use the Mickey Mouse character as it was originally created to create your own Mickey Mouse stories or stories with this character. But if you do so in a way that people will think of Disney – which is kind of likely because they have been investing in this character for so long – then, in theory, Disney could say you violated my copyright.”
The History of Mickey Mouse
When the Disney Mascot was first introduced, he was the black and white iteration of the character. He was seen as a cartoon, Steamboat Willie, who still appears at the beginning of Disney movies. It was the pioneer of animation with the use of synchronized sound. It included music and sound effects that complemented the movements of the character.
The National Museum of American History says, “Over the years, Mickey Mouse has gone through several transformations to his physical appearance and personality. In his early years, the impish and mischievous Mickey looked more rat-like, with a long pointy nose, black eyes, a smallish body with spindly legs, and a long tail.”
So while the studio loses the copyright over the original version, they still have the copyright over the future iterations they created of the character. Till they, too, reach the 95-year mark.
Other Characters that have entered the Public Domain
Apart from Mickey, the studio has lost the copyright on characters like Winnie the Pooh and his pals. He entered the public domain in January and many did not waste a minute using the honey-loving bear for themselves. Daniel Mayeda, however, has warned studios about using old characters too casually, there should be certain limitations on how the characters are used, once they are free for use for everyone.
He also said, “Copyrights are time-limited. Trademarks are not. So Disney could have a trademark essentially in perpetuity, as long as they keep using various things as they’re trademarked, whether they’re words, phrases, characters or whatever.” This means Disney would still have the trademark over certain catchphrases or signature outfits.
The lawyer also further shared his views on the dispute between Disney and Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri. He said, “Disney has been very active in trying to extend copyright terms. Successfully, they have had their term for Mickey and so forth extended, but I doubt that they’re going to be able to get additional extensions. I think this is going to be the end of the line.”
This is definitely not the end of the line for Disney with their mascot, Mickey Mouse.
Source: The Guardian