Mickey Mouse, the Disney mascot and one of the most recognisable fictional characters in popular culture, might escape its owner’s control. The legal basis for this is US copyright law, which stipulates that for works published or registered prior to 1978, character rights expire 95 years after publication.
Disney, commonly known as the House of Mouse because of the mouse character, may so lose its licence to use Mickey Mouse in 2024. The character made his or her debut in the 1928 movie Steamboat Willie.
Caveats in the copyright expiration were disclosed by Daniel Mayeda, associate director of the Documentary Film Legal Clinic at UCLA School of Law.
He said, ‘You can use the Mickey Mouse character as it was originally created to create your own Mickey Mouse stories or stories with this character. 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 trademark.’
Walt Disney and artist Ub Iwerks collaborated on the character’s creation. The anthropomorphic mouse was created as a stand-in for the previous Disney character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. It is well recognised for its distinctive appearance, which consists of huge yellow shoes, yellow gloves, and red shorts with two white dots.
The distinction of being the first animated figure to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame belongs to Mickey Mouse. The majority of the stories include Mickey alongside sidekicks including his fiancée Minnie Mouse, his pet Pluto, Donald Duck, and Goofy.
The 1941 Mickey-starring animated short ‘Lend a Paw’ won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.