Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie between two giant human hands.

Steamboat Willie Enters Public Domain

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Updated Jan 08, 2024 at 04:48PM EST by Zach.

Added Dec 27, 2023 at 02:34PM EST by Philipp.

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Related Explainer: Why Are People Joking About Mickey Mouse Becoming Public Domain? The Character's Upcoming Copyright Expiration Explained

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Overview

Steamboat Willie Enters Public Domain, also known as Mickey Mouse Enters Public Domain, refers to the 1928 Disney short film Steamboat Willie, considered the debut of both Mickey and Minnie Mouse, entering the public domain on January 1st, 2024. In late December 2023, the addition of the short and its versions of Mickey and Minnie to the public domain became a subject of viral discussions as users imagined possible projects involving the characters.

Background

On January 1st, 2024, the animated short film Steamboat Willie (shown below), released by Disney 95 years ago in 1929, is expected to enter the public domain, meaning that the copyright for the original version of the cartoon and its characters will expire and that the original versions of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse as seen in the film will enter the public domain.



Online Reactions

Posts and threads about Mickey Mouse entering the public domain had been going viral online at least since 2020. For example, on February 23rd, 2020, X[1] / Twitter account @Defunctland made one such thread, with the first post gaining over 900 reposts and 3,000 likes in four years (shown below, left). On March 7th, 2022, X[2] user @KevinPerjurer made a post that received over 830 reposts and 7,200 likes in two years (shown below, right).


D Defunctland @Defunctland • Feb 23, 2020 Disney and Copyright. A fascinating and complicated topic. In 2024, Mickey Mouse will enter the public domain. Many believe Disney will fight for another copyright extension, but I don't believe they will. I believe they've found a way to protect Mickey Mouse forever... (1/10) 20 1907 Defunctland @Defunctland 3K ₁ Defunctland @Defunctland Feb 23, 2020 D In 1998, Disney (and others) fought for an extension to copyright law. This extended the previous extension from 1976, which stated works were protected for 75 years after publication. In 1998, it was extended to 95 years after publication, pushing Mickey's expiration to 2024. Q1 2 10 l 514 口 口企 D So Disney could fight for another extension, and it would be just as disastrous to art and copyright law as before. However, they don't have to. I believe they have a strong contingency plan. Here's what would happen if Mickey enters the public domain. 2:17 PM. Feb 23, 2020 Kevin Perjurer @KevinPerjurer When Mickey's copyright goes to the public domain in 2 years, I look forward to Disney doing absolutely no lobbying and going all in on inspiring lawmakers to grant them an extension through powerful entertainment content. 7:23 PM - Mar 7, 2022

On December 22nd and 25th, 2023, film news accounts @Variery[3] and @DiscussingFilms[4] made posts about the original version of Mickey Mouse becoming public domain in January 2023, with the posts gaining over 1,000 reposts and 2,200 likes and 6,700 reposts and 66,000 likes on X, respectively.

In late December 2023, the subject became a viral topic of discussion on social media, with users imagining the ways Mickey Mouse could be reimagined once the character enters public domain, with many users bringing out low-rated slasher horror Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey as an example. For example, on December 25th, 2023, X[5] user @JtasticVA suggested a roguelike video game based on Steamboat Willie, with the post gaining over 80 reposts and 570 likes in two days (shown below, left). On December 26th, 2023, artist Haus of Decline made a humorous post that received over 1,000 reposts and 11,000 likes on X[6] in one day (shown below, right).


Holly Jollytastic - Comms Open @JtasticVA I'd like everyone to forget any Half-baked horror movie ideas and consider: Steamboat Willie rougelike 4 DiscussingFilm @Discussing Film . Dec 25 The original Mickey Mouse enters public domain in 1 week. 5:47 PM Dec 25, 2023 · 14.6K Views : Haus of Decline @hausofdecline I'm going to make a totally WILD and F----- UP Mickey Mouse movie where Mickey F---- and SMOKES CRACK and says incredibly BASED s--- constantly like "haha I'm Mickey Mouse and I'm here to F--- and SMOKE CRACK." DiscussingFilm @DiscussingFilm . Dec 25 The original Mickey Mouse enters public domain in 1 week. 9:44 AM Dec 26, 2023 415.5K Views : ...

First Wave Of Mickey Horror Titles

Early January of 2024 saw a deluge of horror-related titles starring or prominently featuring Mickey Mouse. These include a horror-slasher film Mickey's Mouse Trap and an indie horror video game called Infestation 88, which prominently features Mickey Mouse in its marketing.


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Top Comments

Sunsoft Bass
Sunsoft Bass

"I don't want this! They will ruin Mickey Mouse with cheap horror versions like they did with Winnie the Pooh! Copyright should last forever!"

This happened with the characters still under copyright.

Peter Pan is in the public domain, but Disney still owns that version.

This almost happened.

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