Are images of the early Mickey Mouse still copyrighted?


18 Responses to “Are images of the early Mickey Mouse still copyrighted?”

  1. Brainspore says:

    #6: I’ve heard similar arguments about Mickey being protected as a trademark, and that argument would seem to have some solid backing since the Mouse (and his simplified three-circle silhouette) have been used to brand Disney products for decades.

    The bigger argument is over whether Disney cartoons — and by extension most of the history of film — will ever reach public domain. Not if Disney has their way, which is bitterly ironic considering how much of their empire from Snow White on was based on work that was no longer under copyright.

  2. Jardine says:

    Trademark worked in Canada for Anne of Green Gables.

  3. wurp says:

    Mostly put here so someone in the know can correct me, but…

    As far as I know, trademark protection is purely to help the consumer know that the product is from a particular company, and make decisions about whether to trust it based on that.

    If your reproduction of another company’s trademark is clearly not meant to imply that your product is produced or endorsed by the company owning the trademark, I think you’re in the clear.

    I am a pedant, but other than that I bear no resemblance to a lawyer.

  4. dbarak says:


    I wonder, then, if the copyright holder is a corporation, how the “lifetime of the creator plus ‘X’ number of years” would affect things, seeing that corporations can last longer than a human. That’s assuming, of course, that the “life of the creator” aspect is still in place.

  5. Porpoise says:

    It’s too bad propagander
    Lags so far behind
    Reality these days

  6. Ugly Canuck says:

    Disney’s rights are often wrongs IMO.

  7. shagman says:

    I’d donate a couple bucks to a fund to go after the rights to Mickey and “Happy Birthday”. A few million dollars will win those cases and set some legal precedents.

  8. Robbo says:

    Free Mickey!

  9. quantumage says:

    Biggest question:


    Mickey is SO 20th Centch.

    Take a kid to Disneyland today, and they start crying when some weird giant mouse starts lumbering towards them.

    You have to sit down and explain:

    “No, sweetie, Mickey Mouse is a cartoon character that used to be really popular, like Charlie Brown. No, Charlie Brown. You know, Charlie Brown and Snoopy? No, not Snoop Dog, Snoopy. They were cartoon characters that used to be popular, like Mickey … ah, never mind. Let’s go to Universal Studios and see Spongebob and Spiderman. Or better yet, go play some Mario and Yoshi.

    If Disney wants Mickey to mean anything to the next gen, they need to pump out some killer video games and some funny-as-shite movies featuring the Mouse ASAP.

  10. Baldhead says:

    meh. US courts will go with Disney if it ever shows up in court. Not that it’s likely to anytime soon.

  11. VICTOR JIMENEZ says:

    Yeah! Free Mikey from those fat cats!

  12. Anonymous says:

    I have had that very same image (used in your article) of Mickey Mouse tattooed on my leg for over 20 years, it was good to see him in the light of day.

  13. Steven Stwalley says:

    Disney was the driving force behind the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension act (aka the Mickey Mouse Extension Act), which robbed America of millions of works that should be in the public domain. While a handful of these works are preserved, the vast majority of them deteriorate and disappear from neglect, thanks in a large part to people not being able to legally preserve them. Disney has a long and ugly history of abusing copyright law, probably moreso than any other entity in America.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if something was organized to free Mickey and kick them in their rubbery corporate nuts?

    More on the Mickey Mouse Extension Act here:

  14. Anonymous says:

    For a useful analysis of the widespread problem of claiming copyright on public domain works, see Jason Mazzone’s article, “Copyfraud,” published by New York University. It is available for (free) download here:

  15. ZippySpincycle says:

    Now that the Supreme Court has held that parody is protected under the 1st Amendment, I wonder whether Air Pirates Funnies could be republished. Any gazillionaires want to try it?

  16. dbarak says:

    In this specific case, I wonder if expired or unenforceable copyright would have much consequence. Aside from the design and manufacture of toys and such (more on that shortly), it would seem that most uses would fall under “fair use” (although I have a feeling Disney would fight any use).

    That being said, I wonder if commercial use of expired copyrighted material might still be a problem due to trademarking. I’m familiar with copyright basics, but know very little about trademarks. Could trademark protection be used in place of copyright protection in a case like this?

  17. Dr.Arthur says:

    I propose we build a “officially public domain mickey.” He can’t wear the “trademark” gloves and his “trademark” ears will be squares.

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