Disney 'could lose exclusive rights to Mickey Mouse' over copyright expiration
Disney could soon lose exclusive rights to one of its most beloved characters, as Mickey Mouse 's 95-year copyright is set to expire.
US copyright law states intellectual property on artistic work expires 95 years after first publication, meaning Mickey will enter the public domain in 2024.
Once the copyright expires, anyone wishing to use the character will not have to request permission or pay copyright charges.
This means the cartoon mouse could move to non-Disney stories.
Mickey first appeared in 1928 and has become one of the most recognisable animated characters of all time. He also acts as the symbol of Disney.
Disney's copyright was initially protected for 56 years.
As the character approached the end of its copyright, the entertainment giant successfully lobbied for the Copyright Act of 1976 to extend protection to 75 years.
In 1998, they lobbied for a further extension which gave it protection for 95 years.
It is unclear whether Disney will soon make another move to prevent Mickey from being moved into the public domain.
Mirror Online has contacted Disney for comment.
According to Daniel Mayeda, entertainment lawyer, the copyright expiration does not come without limitations.
"You can use the Mickey Mouse character as it was originally created to create your own Mickey Mouse stories or stories with this character," he told The Guardian.
He added: "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 copyright."
Mickey Mouse first appeared in the black and white cartoon Steamboat Willie. It was one of the first cartoons to use synchronised sound and music and quickly made him a household name.
Mickey has appeared in more than 130 films next to Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Donald Duck and Goofy.
Other well-known characters have already moved into the public domain, including Winnie the Pooh which entered after its copyright expired in January.
The now free-to-use bear has now starred in horror movie Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Horror.
The film has been written and directed by Rhys Waterfield and sees Pooh and Piglet go on a murderous rampage after being abandoned by Christopher Robin.