McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

The Warrior Weekly
The Orange Scoop
Latest Issue

In the public’s hands

After 96 years Disney’s biggest character, Mickey Mouse, has gone into the public domain. Open to the public for use, Disney still has their ways to strike people who use the character
Rachel Kaminski
Disney’s Steamboat Willie rendition of Mickey Mouse has officially become public domain as its copyright protection has expired after over 95 years.

In 1928, the future of animation was changed with the release of the first Mickey Mouse short “Plane Crazy” created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. 96 years later, that short, along with the ones that followed including “Steamboat Willie”, are now in the public domain.

After losing the rights to their first cartoon “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit” to Universal business partners and animators, Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks created the character later known as Mickey Mouse. The first commercial success they had was with the short “Steamboat Willie”, with Iwerks designing the characters and Walt helping in animation and voice acting.

To be in the public domain it means that a work or concept is ineligible for copyright or its copyright has expired. This allows the general public to use the works without facing the risk of being copyrighted by a company. In the case of Mickey Mouse, the Walt Disney company’s copyright has expired on those original shorts, but what most do not seem to notice is that Disney is still very much in control of the character.

Disney still has a trademark on the design, which allows them to have control over the symbol and design of the character which allows Disney to continue striking content that features the newly public domain Mickey Mouse shorts. Misinformation on social media has led people to believe that since Mickey is wearing his iconic gloves and shoes in the title cards of the shorts that they are a part of the public domain which is incorrect. According to the U.S. Trademark No. 315,056 for MICKEY MOUSE, Disney still has a trademark on the gloves, shoes, the shape of his head, and the name. Trademarks do not have an expiration date to them.

A CNN interview with Rebecca Tushnet, a Harvard Law School professor, said “that while the public domain allows anyone to re-envision Steamboat Willie in any way they want, you cannot copy elements of the more modern Mickey Mouse.”

Copyright is something the Walt Disney company is familiar with. Disney lost their exclusive copyright hold on the “Winnie-the Pooh” stories by A.A. Milne in 2022. In the coming years Disney will be losing more of their staple characters.

“Next year, Pluto will enter the public domain, followed by Donald Duck and Goofy in 2029,” Inside the Magic states. “However, this does signify that the end of an era is certainly upon us.”

Even with the heavy restrictions with the trademarks many have seen this as this a new opportunity. There have been rumors of a horror movie in the works, people online have embraced the freedom of being allowed to draw a version of their favorite character.

“I think it’s pretty comical, people can use it to their advantage and you know what, there is gonna be some weird things and some pretty funny things and I’m all for it,” said junior Yaneli Solorio. “I’m waiting to be entertained.”

Mickey Mouse has been a staple of the Walt Disney company for 96 years and has entertained both children and adults for decades. Disney will continue to have a tight hold on this character and that will not change. Before Disney could and would strike you if you drew a mouse in a rubber-hose style, but now they can. The public domain title allows people to create stories and characters they were not able to before.

Leave a Comment

Comments (0)

The McHenry Messenger intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussions. Comments both on our website and social media must leave a door open for discussion and cannot include any attacks on the writer or the subject of the writing, but may include constructive criticism. Along with this, no profanity will be tolerated. All McHenry Messenger comments will be reviewed by a moderator prior to being publicly posted. The McHenry Messenger does not allow anonymous comments and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All The McHenry Messenger Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *