When you think of Disney, there are a few iconic images that may come to mind. Perhaps a castle, maybe a favorite princess, but one thing that is universally known as Disney is Mickey Mouse.
From the days of Steamboat Willie, Walt’s debut of his little pay, Mickey Mouse, has been the mascot of Disney. Now it seems that Disney is at risk of losing the rights to the character! According to The Hollywood Reporter, “The copyright for Walt Disney’s 1928 cartoon Steamboat Willie — which introduced the world to Mickey Mouse — is set to expire and enter the public domain in three years.” The rights would include the Mickey Mouse that we saw in the film, which is different from other iterations of the character as time progressed.
The Hollywood Reporter went on to explain how Disney avoid this happening earlier. Disney successfully lobbied Congress to lengthen the number of years that copyrights can be held in 1988. The law ended up being called the Copyright Term Extension Act but has also received the name “the Mickey Mouse Protection Act.” However, in three years, the rights to Mickey Mouse will end, and Mickey will be up for grabs.
It seems “Disney’s legal team might succeed in keeping Walt Disney’s famous character and Mouse House mascot from becoming rights-free,” just as others have done with Dracula or Sherlock Holmes. If not, however, another company is already ready to “eat [Disney] alive.”
The Hollywood Reporter announced:
MSCHF has launched the “X Famous Mouse.” The company’s ad copy doesn’t call the token “Mickey Mouse” or use its exact imagery – for now – but it’s a placeholder for the iconic character and comes with a unique ticking clock. The idea is you pay for the nondescript mouse-like token today (cost: $100 for one of the 1,000 copies available) and then you receive a physical collectible token for the character that’s redeemable in 2024 – when Disney’s copyright on Mickey Mouse is set to expire. At that time, you’ll receive the real deal.
MSCHF CEO Gabe Whaley is clearly not a fan of Disney as he stated, “Disney is a massive all-swallowing conglomerate, with a desire for both industry dominance and cultural hegemony. It is ever-growing, all-encompassing, risk-averse, and society-blandening. We must leap at the chance to take back even the scant morsels available to us. At the slightest chance, we must eat them alive.” If Disney does gain the rights to Mickey Mouse, his tokens would likely be void.
The idea of creating the coin while Disney still owns the rights may not have been the best move on Whaley’s part. A copyright attorney James Sammataro discussed the situation, and it seems that Disney could have legal grounds to sue MSCHF.
“It’s difficult to foresee a scenario where [art] of a not-yet-in-the-public-domain work would not give rise to a prospective claim. Disney can credibly argue that the inchoate license devalues the current value of its licensing rights by diverting up would-be licensees.”
It should be noted that even if Disney were to lose the trademark to the original Mickey Mouse, Disney would still own copyrights for later incarnations of the character and Mickey-related trademarks.
It will take a few years to see what happens with Disney and the original Mickey Mouse!
What do you think of this story? Let us know in the comments below.