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Disney’s dominance of copyright law prevails as only the ‘Steamboat Willie’ version of Mickey Mouse enters public domain

December 25, 2023 | by stockcoin.net

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Disney’s long-standing dominance of copyright law is set to be reaffirmed as only the original 1928 version of Mickey Mouse, known as “Steamboat Willie,” enters the public domain. While this expiration grants free use of the mischievous boat captain character, Disney will continue to safeguard its rights to the more modern iterations of Mickey and its other copyrighted creations. The significance of this event raises questions about what specific aspects of a character’s personality or features can be copyrighted. Notably, Disney still maintains a trademark on Mickey as a corporate mascot and brand identifier. Additionally, this development allows other notable works, like Charlie Chaplin’s “Circus” and Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando,” to enter the public domain in the US. However, the US copyright term remains longer than that of many other countries, impeding certain works from joining the public domain. As a result, there is a growing push for copyright extensions to be reconsidered and advocacy for a broader public domain. One potential solution being considered is the adoption of the rule of the shorter term by Congress to facilitate the entry of more works into the public domain.

Disney’s dominance of copyright law prevails as only the ‘Steamboat Willie’ version of Mickey Mouse enters public domain.

Disneys dominance of copyright law prevails as only the Steamboat Willie version of Mickey Mouse enters public domain

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The 1928 short film ‘Steamboat Willie’ will soon enter the public domain

In a significant development in the world of copyright law, the iconic 1928 short film ‘Steamboat Willie’ featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse is set to enter the public domain in the near future. This comes as a result of the expiration of the film’s copyright, which will allow for the use of the earliest version of Mickey Mouse, a cultural icon loved by millions around the world.

Expiration of the ‘Steamboat Willie’ copyright allows use of the earliest version of Mickey Mouse

With the expiration of the copyright on ‘Steamboat Willie,’ the original mischievous boat captain version of Mickey Mouse will now be available for use by creative artists and enthusiasts. This marks a significant moment not only for Disney but also for fans of the character who will now have the opportunity to explore and reimagine Mickey Mouse in ways that were previously barred due to copyright restrictions.

Disneys dominance of copyright law prevails as only the Steamboat Willie version of Mickey Mouse enters public domain

Current versions of Mickey will remain under copyright protection

While the earliest version of Mickey Mouse from ‘Steamboat Willie’ will be entering the public domain, it is crucial to note that the current versions of the beloved character will still be protected by copyright law. This means that the more recent and popular iterations of Mickey, such as those seen in modern films and television shows, will remain under the exclusive ownership of Disney.

Disney will continue protecting rights to modern versions of Mickey and other works

As Disney’s flagship character and a cornerstone of their brand, it is understandable that the company will continue to fiercely protect the rights to the modern versions of Mickey Mouse. Alongside their copyright protection of Mickey, Disney will also safeguard their ownership of other works, ensuring that their valuable creative assets remain under their control.

Disneys dominance of copyright law prevails as only the Steamboat Willie version of Mickey Mouse enters public domain

Questions raised about copyrightability of character’s personality or features

The expiration of the copyright on ‘Steamboat Willie’ raises intriguing questions about the copyrightability of a character’s personality or features. While the specific storyline and artistic elements of the film may be protected by copyright, it is debatable whether the essence of a character, such as Mickey Mouse’s mischievous nature or his recognizable physical appearance, can be subject to copyright protection. This gray area presents an interesting challenge for copyright scholars and experts to explore.

Disney still holds trademark on Mickey as corporate mascot and brand identifier

Although the copyright on ‘Steamboat Willie’ will no longer prevent others from using the earliest version of Mickey Mouse, Disney still holds a trademark on the character as a corporate mascot and brand identifier. This means that any commercial use of Mickey Mouse, particularly in connection with products or services that may cause confusion with Disney’s brand, remains protected and subject to trademark laws.

Disneys dominance of copyright law prevails as only the Steamboat Willie version of Mickey Mouse enters public domain

Other works, like Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Circus’ and Virginia Woolf’s ‘Orlando,’ also entering the public domain in the US

The entry of ‘Steamboat Willie’ into the public domain is not an isolated incident. Several other works, including Charlie Chaplin’s iconic film ‘Circus’ and Virginia Woolf’s novel ‘Orlando,’ will also be entering the public domain in the United States. This expansion of the public domain ensures greater access to cultural works and encourages creativity by removing certain restrictions on their use.

US copyright term longer than other countries, preventing certain works from entering public domain

One of the key factors that influenced the entry of ‘Steamboat Willie’ into the public domain is the duration of copyright protection in the United States. Compared to some other countries, the copyright term in the US is longer, which has the potential to prevent certain works from entering the public domain in a timely manner. This disparity in copyright terms has sparked discussions around harmonizing copyright laws globally to ensure a fair balance between the rights of creators and the availability of works for the public.

Disneys dominance of copyright law prevails as only the Steamboat Willie version of Mickey Mouse enters public domain

Pushback against copyright extensions and advocacy for the public domain

The extension of copyright terms in recent years has faced criticism and pushback from various groups advocating for the preservation and expansion of the public domain. These groups argue that extended copyright terms stifle creativity and limit access to knowledge and cultural heritage. The entry of ‘Steamboat Willie’ and other works into the public domain serves as a victory for those who support a broader and more inclusive public domain.

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Congress could adopt the rule of the shorter term to bring more works into the public domain

To address the issue of copyright term disparities and to bring more works into the public domain, there has been a proposal for Congress to adopt the rule of the shorter term. This rule would enable works that have entered the public domain in their home countries due to the expiration of copyright protection to also enter the public domain in the United States, regardless of the length of protection granted by US copyright law. Such a measure would promote cultural exchange and enrichment by ensuring that valuable works from around the world are accessible to the public.

In conclusion, the imminent entry of the ‘Steamboat Willie’ version of Mickey Mouse into the public domain marks a significant development for copyright law. While the original incarnation of Mickey will now be free to reimagine and reinterpret, Disney will continue to protect their rights to the more modern versions of the beloved character. This development also raises important questions about the copyrightability of a character’s personality or features, and the need to harmonize copyright terms globally to ensure a balanced and accessible public domain. As discussions continue in the world of copyright, the public eagerly awaits the day when more cultural treasures find their place in the public domain, fostering creativity and enriching our collective cultural heritage.

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