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  • Writer's pictureBy The Financial District

Disney’s Early Version Of Mickey Mouse Enters Public Domain

An early version of Disney’s most iconic character has entered the public domain for the first time.

“Steamboat Willie” premiered in 1928, helping launch Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney into the stratosphere. I Photo: Disney

For nearly a century, the image of Mickey Mouse has been synonymous with the Walt Disney Co. brand. But, on January 1, 2024, Disney’s copyright of “Steamboat Willie,” Walt Disney’s first short film featuring Mickey Mouse, expired, as reported by Samantha Delouya for CNN.

That means that one of the company’s earliest iterations of its beloved rodent is now available for public use.

“Steamboat Willie” premiered in 1928, helping launch Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney into the stratosphere.

Since US copyright law, last updated by Congress in 1998, allows copyright to be held for 95 years, Disney’s sole claim to the character is about to end. The modern Mickey Mouse character cannot be touched because it is trademarked.

All the news: Business man in suit and tie smiling and reading a newspaper near the financial district.

There are differences between the 1928 Mickey and the company’s mascot today. The Mickey of “Steamboat Willie” lacks the current Mickey’s gloves and oversized shoes, and his eyes are small black ovals without pupils.

A Disney spokesperson said the modern version of Mickey will not be affected by the copyright expiration.

Business: Business men in suite and tie in a work meeting in the office located in the financial district.

“Ever since Mickey Mouse’s first appearance in the 1928 short film Steamboat Willie, people have associated the character with Disney’s stories, experiences, and authentic products. That will not change when the copyright in the Steamboat Willie film expires,” the spokesperson said.

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