As of January 1, Mickey Mouse no longer enjoys copyright protection after 95 years


As of January 1, Mickey Mouse no longer enjoys copyright protection after 95 years
© Tomohiro Ohsumi / Getty Images

Get ready for a new era of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, because after 95 years under copyright, the iconic cartoon duo is set to enter the public domain on January 1, 2024. That means everyone from independent creators to major studios will have the legal right to use original versions of these beloved characters in their works without having to pay Disney a dime.

This is a milestone for intellectual property law and a potential boon for creative freedom. Remember what happened when Winnie the Pooh came into the public domain last year? We've seen everything from horror parodies to indie graphic novels that reimagine the honey-loving bear in unexpected ways.

Now get ready for a similar wave of Mickey and Minnie-inspired projects, potentially ranging from fan-made cartoons to historical documentaries exploring their cultural impact. However, it is important to note that only the original Mickey and Minnie from "Steamboat Willie" enter the public domain.

The countless iterations of the characters that have appeared over the decades, since their colorful appearances in later Disney films, are still firmly under copyright protection. So while you might see some wild and wacky "Steamboat Willie" duos pop up, don't expect Goofy or Elsa to suddenly join the free-for-all.

Mickey Mouse Protection Act

This release from copyright was not easy for Mickey and Minnie. Back in 2004, they were originally supposed to enter the public domain, but Disney lobbied Congress for a 20-year extension, which caused controversy and was even nicknamed the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act.

" This time, however, the Mouse House could not hold back the inevitable march of time. The event also marks the entry into the public domain of other iconic works on January 1, including "Lady Chatterley's Lover" by D.H. Lawrence and "The Circus" by Charlie Chaplin.

The countdown has begun, and the public domain is about to get a lot more magical. Let's see what adventures await Mickey and Minnie Mouse in their next chapter!