Disney LOSES Mickey Mouse on January 1, 2024...

Disney is set to lose the copyright to Mickey Mouse from "Steamboat Willie" on January 1, 2024. This means Mickey Mouse is public domain. Well, THAT specific version of Mickey. So how many people are going to try and do bootleg Mickey Mouse projects, and will Disney allow them to?

Additional Context:
Disney is set to lose the copyright to the original 1928 version of Mickey Mouse, specifically the character's depiction in "Steamboat Willie," on January 1, 2024. This event is highly significant as it marks nearly a century since Mickey Mouse's debut and represents a turning point in the history of intellectual property laws. The expiration of this copyright will allow the public to use, adapt, and build upon the original version of Mickey Mouse featured in "Steamboat Willie" and "Plane Crazy."

However, there are important caveats to consider. While the earliest version of Mickey Mouse will enter the public domain, Disney will continue to hold copyrights for later versions of the character, such as the Mickey seen in the 1940 film "Fantasia." These later versions remain protected and cannot be copied or used without permission from Disney. Therefore, any use of Mickey Mouse's image that could be associated with Disney's brand or later versions of the character could potentially lead to legal challenges.

In addition to copyright, Disney holds separate trademark rights over Mickey Mouse as a corporate mascot and brand identifier. Trademarks, unlike copyrights, can be renewed indefinitely and protect against the use of the character in ways that might cause consumer confusion or suggest an association with Disney. Therefore, while the public will have new opportunities to creatively engage with the original 1928 Mickey Mouse, they must be mindful not to infringe on Disney's ongoing trademark rights.

This development highlights the complex interplay between copyrights, which have a set expiration, and trademarks, which can be maintained indefinitely. It also underscores Disney's continued efforts to protect its iconic characters, as the company has stated it will "work to safeguard against consumer confusion caused by unauthorized uses of Mickey and other iconic characters."

The entry of the original 1928 Mickey Mouse into the public domain is a historic moment for intellectual property laws, providing new opportunities for creative use while also underscoring the ongoing importance of trademarks in protecting well-known characters​​​​​.

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