Early versions of Mickey Mouse are now part of the public domain and non-Disney creators can use them in their own for-profit works as copyright protection of the character expired after 95 years on January 1.
Independent video game creators and film directors are leveraging this, having already announced two horror movies and a video game featuring Mickey Mouse. Online platforms are also being flooded with memes of the character in absurd and inappropriate scenes.
Disney will be vigilant in defending its trademarks. It will not hesitate to take legal action over any perceived endorsement or affiliation with its brand. “We will, of course, continue to protect our rights in the more modern versions of Mickey Mouse and other works that remain subject to copyright, and we will work to safeguard consumer TikTok Achieves Milestone: $10 billion in Global Consumer Spendingconfusion caused by unauthorized uses of Mickey and our other iconic characters.”
Film producer and director Steven LaMorte will direct an untitled horror-comedy based on Mickey’s cartoon debut. The mouse will torment a group of unsuspecting ferry passengers. LaMorte said Disney Turns 100: It All Started With a MouseSteamboat Willie has brought joy to generations but beneath that cheerful exterior lies a potential, unhinged terror. “It’s a project I’ve dreaming of, and I can’t wait to unleash this twisted take on this beloved character to the world.”
LaMorte is renowned for directing a horror parody of the Grinch – “The Mean One”. He explained that it all comes from the love of these characters. “Filmmakers – we’re all kids in the sandbox. We love taking them and playing with them in different ways. It’s not a desire to ruin these characters or make a quick buck, but to love them and honor them, and show them in a new light.”
Jennifer Jenkins, the director of the Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain, says Disney has become a symbol of corporate lobbying for longer copyright periods. She highlighted that Disney itself has used public-domain works and characters to create many of its beloved animations. Jenkins said that while some newer Mickey Mouse character traits aren’t likely able to be copyrighted, it’s a less risky bet for characters to repurpose the version of Mickey that has become public domain – the original.