Mickey Mouse Could Soon Leave Disney
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Mickey Mouse could soon part ways with Disney as the company's 95-year copyright is set to expire in two years.
The cartoon mouse was created in 1928 and has gone on to become the one of the entertainment conglomerate's most recognisable characters, as well as its symbol.
But US copyright law stipulates that intellectual copyright on artistic work expires after 95 years, meaning Mickey will enter the public domain in 2024, and Disney could lose its exclusive rights.
However, anyone who does decide to use the character may want to tread carefully.
"You can use the Mickey Mouse character as it was originally created to create your own Mickey Mouse stories or stories with this character," Daniel Mayeda, associate director of the Documentary Film Legal Clinic at UCLA School of Law, told The Guardian.
"But if you do so in a way that people will think of Disney – which is kind of likely because they have been investing in this character for so long – then in theory, Disney could say you violated my copyright."
Disney may also retain trademarks on things such as catchphrases and outfits.
Mayeda explained: "Copyrights are time-limited. Trademarks are not.
"So Disney could have a trademark essentially in perpetuity, as long as they keep using various things as they're trademarked, whether they're words, phrases, characters or whatever."
What's more, Mickey has evolved as a character down the decades; he started off with a longer nose and tail, and basically looked more like a rat. As such, it is only this original ratty version that will reach the copyright expiry in 2024, and Disney will retain copyright on subsequent variations until 95 years after they were created.
When Mickey was born in the '20s, his copyright stood for 56 years, but the company subsequently managed to extend it to 75 years, and in 1998 it was extended once again to 95 years.
Mayeda reckons the show could be over now though.
He said: "Successfully, they have had their term for Mickey and so forth extended, but I doubt that they're going to be able to get additional extensions. I think this is going to be the end of the line."
It comes after Winnine the Pooh entered the public domain earlier this year, with the character subsequently reimagined in horror movie, Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey.
UNILAD has contacted Disney for comment.
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