After the expiration of its 95-year-old US copyright, iconic cartoon character Mickey Mouse has become free for public use
Walt Disney’s iconic character Mickey Mouse has entered the public domain after its 95-year-old copyright expired on the last day of 2023. Images of Mickey and Minnie Mouse from the 1928 short film Steamboat Willie became available for public use in the US on Jan 1, 2024.
This means artists can rework or reimagine the earliest versions of Mickey and Minnie without any permission or cost. However, newer versions of the iconic cartoon characters remain under copyright.
Public Domain Day
Public Domain Day is observed annually on January 1st to mark the expiration of copyrights and the entry of works into the public domain. Works from 1928 were originally set to become copyright-free in 2004. However, Congress passed the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act, adding another 20 years of protection.
The start of 2024 saw several iconic works becoming copyright-free as their protection came to a close. In 2022, A.A. Milne’s Winnie The Pooh became free for public use, shortly after which a horror-slasher film based on the famous character was released.
What other works became copyright-free in 2024?
Joining Mickey and Minnie in the public domain is The Pooh Bear’s pal Tigger, who first made an appearance in the 1928 film The House at Pooh Corner. Another prominent animated character that became copyright-free is J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.
Meanwhile, several notable works, including Agatha Christie’s The Mystery of the Blue Train, Charlie Chaplin’s silent film The Circus, D.H Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf have entered the public domain.
What major character will lose its copyright in 2025?
Next year, the decades-old cartoon character Popeye the Sailor Man will become free for public use. Other notable works that will lose their copyrights in 2025 include René Magritte’s painting, The Treachery of Images and the first Marx Brothers film.