What’s of interest? Mickey, Disney, and the Public Domain: a 95-year Love Triangle | Duke University School of Law
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On January 1, 2024, after almost a century of copyright protection, Mickey Mouse, or at least a version of Mickey Mouse, will enter the public domain. The first movies in which the iconic mouse appeared – Steamboat Willie and the silent version of Plane Crazy – were made in 1928 and works from that year go into the public domain in the United States on New Year’s Day 2024.
The public domain has had some famous recent arrivals, but this is the most anticipated entry yet. Why? It is not simply that Mickey is a famous copyrighted character. So are Sherlock Holmes and Winnie the Pooh, and while they entered the public domain with some fanfare, it paled in comparison to this event. I’d like to offer a tentative answer. The reason that this event gathers so much attention is that it is the story of a 95-year-old love triangle, a tangled drama that rivals any Disney movie for twists and turns. The protagonists are Mickey, Disney and the Public Domain, and their relationship positively exemplifies the social media weasel-words “it’s complicated.”
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