Disney, copyrights on the original versions of Mickey and Minnie have expired

The first original black and white versions of Mickey and Minnie as of yesterday, Monday 1 January 2024, have lost copyright protection. Published in 1928, early versions of Mickey Mouse and his significant other have now entered the public domain.
Not only them but many other icons published in 1928 have since yesterday entered the public domain, however these two characters are undoubtedly the most famous of all their colleagues, which is why they deserve an honorable mention.

In a highly symbolic deadline, the popular characters appeared in the cartoon Steamboat Willie they lost the protection of copyright laws as soon as New Year 2024 was celebrated.
The consequence? From now on they can be adapted at will and remade in any way, without risking any type of legal action and without the obligation to pay royalties. The ability to use Mickey and Minnie is both on the page and on the stage and screen. In short: everywhere.

Not just Mickey Mouse: from Peter Pan to Lady Chatterley’s lovermany works have entered the public domain

Among the other works that entered the public domain yesterday are the theatrical version of Peter Pan by JM Barrie, the novels Lady Chatterley’s lover by DH Lawrence e Orlando by Virginia Woolf, the original in German by Nothing new on the Western Front And The Threepenny Opera by Bertold Brecht.

All this will open up incredible scenarios, given that the consequences will not only be those that will allow these works to be read, viewed and listened to for free on web platforms – such as those of Google – without rights, but will even allow new versions to be created. Precisely this last consequence is what Winnie The Pooh faced, when the rights to the bear protagonist of one of Disney’s most famous and profitable franchises expired in 2021. Two years ago the popular character created by AA Milne was “freed” together with other friends from the Hundred Acre Wood. Initially, Tigger, who appeared for the first time in the 1928 story, was left out The House at Pooh Corner and therefore from this year he will join the group of rights-free friends.
So Tigger could join that terrible Winnie transformed into a club-wielding cannibal monster in a new horror film from the film series Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey. The first film of this honey-and-blood-flavored epic was released on Peacock last year, while the sequel is scheduled for February.

Even at Topolino’s Steamboat Willie will it happen like Winnie the Pooh?

It naturally arises to ask whether even the Mickey Mouse of Steamboat Willie the same thing that happened to Winnie the Pooh will happen. Will we see him go crazy and dismember everyone, armed with something sharp and perpetually bloody? Clearly Disney doesn’t hope so, on the contrary…
We remember that the company of the symbolic enchanted castle had played a leading role in the all-out defense of copyright: it was Disney itself that pushed to have the Congressional law approved which in 1998 extended it for twenty years, from 75 to 95, the protections provided by copyright laws.
Detractors had renamed that law with the sarcastic expression “Mickey Mouse Protection Act”, given that it seems that the measure was approved under pressure from the Anaheim giant – but also from a large number of copyright holders – to protect the creations of its artists for as long as possible, starting from the cornerstone of the Cinderella & Co. Castle empire, i.e. Steamboat Willie.
But Disney is keen to point out – in order to avoid misunderstandings and sanctions – that in 2024 only the copyright on that very first version of its mouse expires, a Mickey Mouse different from the one we are used to today. The archetype of Mickey Mouse from the Roaring Twenties of the last century has a pointed rat nose, pupilless eyes and a long tail.
However, all other versions of Mickey Mouse will remain protected, including the one with the red shorts and white gloves, which is the iconic image with which this character is immediately recognizable to today’s public.