Disney Loses Mickey Mouse Copyright, Fans Devastated at Retirement

in Disney, Entertainment, Theme Parks

Mickey Mouse rides the carousel at Hong Kong Disneyland

Credit: Hong Kong Disneyland

Are you ready to say goodbye to Mickey Mouse?

Beloved Disney characters Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Pluto, Chip, and Dale in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland
Credit: Disneyland Resort

Since 1928, Mickey Mouse has been the fast of the Walt Disney Company. When people think of Disney, the first thing they think of is Mickey Mouse. You might think of his face, his red shorts, his classic “Oh boy!”, his partner Minnie Mouse, or all of his friends like Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, and Pluto. Mickey Mouse has dominated household decor, ended up as permanent artwork as a popular tattoo option, and has even taken over everything from food shapes to the way a cloud may look — if you see those three circles placed in a pyramid shape, it’s Mickey Mouse.

So why would Disney give up Mickey Mouse?

Mickey at Disney World in front of Cinderella Castle
Credit: Disney

A few years ago, we broke the devastating news. From the days of Steamboat Willie, Walt’s debut of his little pay, Mickey Mouse, has been the mascot of Disney. 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 character iterations as time progressed. Now, that third year has arrived.

In the past, Disney successfully lobbied Congress to lengthen the number of years that copyrights could 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.”

So will we have to say goodbye to Mickey Mouse?

Mickey Mouse sits on Walt Disney's shoulder
Credit: Disney

As we have reported, Since 2020, Mickey Mouse has starred in the animated Disney+ series The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse, which featured his fellow classic characters Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Daisy Duck, and many more. On July 28, Steamboat Silly debuted, which would mark the end of, The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse, and with that, Disney’s final decision to stop creating animated videos of Mickey Mouse. 

Of course, this news sent Disney fans into a deep spiral. Gary said, “Whoever come up with that one should be booted in the rear end all the way to the entrance and then banned from Disney for the rest of his or her life!!!” Sandra commented, “Why?? He is the face and heart of Disney. Leave him as his ageing self, in retirement. With family, grandkids, etc. He will be missed horribly”. From this, we can see that Disney fans do not want to see Mickey’s stories come to an end.

Jerry brought up a good point, Mickey is the face of Disney, and by phasing him out, you lose the company’s icon.

“Disney will survive, but retiring Mickey is a mistake. He is the REPRESENATIVE of all things DISNEY. An icon, a brand and the symbol of what Walt wanted people to believe in, honest, clean, humorous and loyal to all. There are so many other adjectives that can be used but, to those that work for the company he is essential to the parks, the children and the adults that are still young at heart …if you don’t believe that, just look at the lines that form around Mickey and all the Disney Characters just to have a photo taken, an autograph and to give him a BIG HUG!! How can you retire an image like that, that means so much to so many around the world.”

Mickey Mouse by the Eurostar
Credit: Disney

Other fans were sad to see Disney end the Disney+ series The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse, especially knowing that the copyright for Mickey Mouse comes to an end next year. Reports explain, “The copyright that has prevented others from using Mickey Mouse on their products and media runs out in 2024. That means you, me, and the rest of the world can begin using the world’s most recognized rodents without getting permission or paying licensing fees. Elements of Mickey’s appearance will still be protected. For example, Mickey did not wear those white gloves until 1925. Accordingly, you will have to wait a year to include them. It will therefore be important to stay close to the representation of Mickey Mouse as he appeared in 1924.”

All of this being said, Mickey Mouse will still exist under the Disney umbrella, just in a different way. Mickey Mouse’s copyright will expire next year, but there have been so many renditions of the mouse that not everyone will apply. Chris, one of our readers, commented, “The copyright expiring only applies to early versions of Mickey; more recent ones can still be held. That being said, there are other ways they can protect him, but ultimately copyrights are not intended to go on forever. But I don’t think Disney will actually retire him; more likely, we will see a new series (hopefully with a better animation style) come along in a few years.” We have already seen Disney create multiple animations of Mickey Mouse, which will allow him to carry on and exist!

Mickey With a Camera
Credit: Disney

Is Someone Else Going to Own Mickey Mouse?

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.”

We reported that “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). Then you receive a physical collectable 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.”

Mickey Mouse rides the carousel at Hong Kong Disneyland
Credit: Hong Kong Disneyland

MSCHF CEO Gabe Whaley is clearly not a fan of Disney. 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.

Again, it should be noted that even if Disney lost the trademark to the original Mickey Mouse, Disney would still own copyrights for later incarnations of the character and Mickey-related trademarks.

Are you sad to see Mickey Mouse go? Let us know in the comments below. 

If you want to visit Walt Disney World Resort to see Mickey Mouse on a magical vacation, the Walt Disney World Website can be a great tool to begin planning your trip! You can begin exploring their theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and EPCOT. You can also take a look at their water parks where you can splash around in the chill of Disney’s Blizzard Beach (alongside new Frozen characters, Anna, Elsa, Sven, and Kristoff), or hit the waves at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon. When you get hungry or want to go shopping, Disney Springs is the place to be, especially with World of Disney there ready to help you pick up some souvenirs! You can also begin looking for your Disney World Resort! If you are looking to stay at a Deluxe monorail Resort like Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa or a Value Resort where you can hop on the Skyliner like Disney’s Pop Century Resort, it is always fun to begin looking for a room that would best suit you and your party. Plus, it has all the information you need to know on Disney Genie+ so that you will be ready to go on your My Disney Experience app once you download it! Click here to check it out today.



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