Disney Doesn’t Own Mickey Mouse?

Wow, things would be interesting if Disney didn’t own Mickey Mouse. (via) They’ll never let it happen, though, going so far as to threaten to sue authors of legal articles that point out that the first mouse cartoon, 1928’s Steamboat Willie, is in the public domain. (It wasn’t even original in the first place, being a takeoff of Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr.)

It seems that the original title card didn’t follow the strict requirements of copyright law at the time, creating uncertainty in authorship due to too many names (one of which is Ub Iwerks) near the copyright text. The law in place at the time of the cartoon’s release, dating from 1909, requires immediate proximity. The article goes on to note that

the company has mounted international efforts to claim some characters for the public domain — such as Bambi and Peter Pan — even as it defends Mickey Mouse. Many of Disney’s most famous figures were the creations of others, including Cinderella, Pinocchio, Pooh and Snow White, though it has vigorously protected its depictions of them.

Nothing like corporate hypocrisy to keep those billions flowing.


2 Responses to “Disney Doesn’t Own Mickey Mouse?”

  1. Paul O'Brien Says:

    Even if they don’t own the copyright, they’ll still have the trademark. *shrug*

  2. James Schee Says:

    Hmm, I bet its a case DC will be watching given how some of their characters will reach public domain in the not so distant future. (providing copyright laws don’t get changed again)

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