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Public Domain Welcomes Mickey Mouse from Steamboat Willie

Posted by James Juo | Jan 02, 2024 | 0 Comments

Last year, the public domain welcomed The Great Gatsby. This year, it will be Steamboat Willie, a 1928 short film featuring the first appearance of Mickey Mouse.

As a general rule, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years for works created after January 1, 1978. After that, it becomes part of the public domain.

Works that were published with a copyright notice and with copyright renewed before 1978, however, receive a total of 95 years copyright protection, thanks to the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 (the copyright term previously was 75 years).

Disney recently started using a few seconds of Mickey Mouse from Steamboat Willie at the beginning of its movies, and likely will still claim trademark rights in the Steamboat Willie version of Mickey Mouse as a result. Also, other versions of Mickey Mouse are still protected by Copyright. That could limit the extent to which people can creatively reuse Mickey Mouse from Steamboat Willie.

Thomas P. Howard, LLC is experienced in copyrights and trademarks nationwide including in Colorado.

About the Author

James Juo

James Juo is an experienced intellectual property attorney. He has successfully litigated various intellectual property disputes involving patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. He also has counseled clients on the scope and validity of patent and trademark rights.


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