By Shawn Proctor
Public Domain Day 2024 was a big milestone. The longtime symbol of the tension between copyright and public domain, Mickey Mouse has entered the US public domain. So now creators can write a song about Mickey and Minnie or explore their adventures in novels, movies, and any other form they wish.
“Disney is both an emblem of term extension and its erosion of the public domain, and one of the strongest use-cases in favor of the maintenance of a rich public domain. Mickey is the symbol of both tendencies,” says Jennifer Jenkins, Director, Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain, in her blog “Mickey, Disney, and the Public Domain: a 95-year Love Triangle.”
But hold on one moment. Before you set your muse loose on those fabulous, famous mice, note that the only version this applies to is the Steamboat Willie and Plane Crazy ones, which are black and white.
Other versions will have to wait, alas.
There is a massive list of novels, films, musicals, and sound recordings that have joined Mickey in the US public domain, and depending on your interests, there’s likely something surprising and exciting to discover. Tigger and Peter Pan? Now available! Works by Robert Frost, Virginia Woolf, Charlie Chaplin, and Buster Keaton, too.
And Batman fans should note The Man Who Laughs, featuring the inspiration for the Joker, is also in the public domain. Batman and Superman won’t join him until 2034 and 2035, respectively.
Shawn Proctor, MFA, is Communication and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Library.
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