Mickey Mouse to Be Public Domain in 2023?
Now that Sherlock Holmes--both the character and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories--has been officially declared to be in the public domain, someone asked on Facebook when Mickey Mouse would enter the public domain. Being that I am, A) very interested in intellectual property law, and, B) an American with a great familiarity to the cultural significance of Mickey Mouse, I found the question intriguing. It’s a simple answer--at least on the face of it.
Before that occurred, however, the U.S. government passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, which extended copyright protection for made-for-hire or corporate works another 20 years. Thus protection for copyright held by such entities lasts 95 years now rather than the 75 defined in 1978.
Since Mickey Mouse was created in 1928… add 95… carry the one… Mickey Mouse should enter the public domain in 2023. Of course, copyright is separate from trademark, which protects Mickey Mouse as a brand and mascot of the the Walt Disney Company for as long as the company keeps using it.
However, given the power of Disney, the vast fortune tied up in that particular piece of intellectual property, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Disney attorneys somehow got the copyright extended--again, as Disney was the driving force behind the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act.
Intellectual property attorneys: What do you think? Do you think Disney will allow Mickey Mouse to enter the public domain? How might such an event be blocked? Are you already seeing Disney attorneys and lobbyists at work to amend copyright law once again?