Disney Could Lose Copyright Protection of 'Steamboat Willie' Mickey Mouse in 2024

Several lawmakers have promised to put a stop to any attempts to extend the protection.

Entertainment
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The Walt Disney Company could possibly lose its copyright protection of the original Steamboat Willie Mickey Mouse in 2024.

According to the Los Angeles Times, several Republican lawmakers are determined to put a stop to the extension efforts of the copyright protection after Disney CEO Bob Chapek publicly voiced his disapproval of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act — also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill — which bans the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten to grade three classrooms. The bill has been signed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and will be effective on July 1.

If Disney’s copyright protection expires, the 1928 Steamboat Willie animation will be available in the public domain, allowing anyone and everyone to utilize it for their own creative purposes.

The copyright protection has been extended twice by Congress since its original expiration date in 1984, but as of writing, no attempts by lawmakers have been made to extend the protection. Disney still owns the trademark protection for Mickey Mouse, however, allowing the entertainment conglomerate to go after products or merchandise that feature any version of the character and suggests that it was manufactured by Disney.

According to Pepperdine University professor Victoria Schwartz, Disney’s recent inclusion of the Steamboat Willie cartoon to the opening of films such as Tangled, Frozen and Moana could be its way of establishing the original Mickey Mouse design as a modern logo or trademark of the company’s. If that move proves to be successful, the protection will remain even though the copyright has expired.

Elsewhere in entertainment, the Pirates of the Caribbean producer has not ruled out Johnny Depp’s return to the franchise.

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