Updated Jan 1, 2024 - Business

Mickey and Minnie Mouse lose copyright protection

Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie

Photo: LMPC via Getty Images

The original versions of Mickey and Minnie Mouse entered the public domain on Monday, more than 95 years after first being introduced by Walt Disney in "Steamboat Willie."

Why it matters: The iconic duo could be in for some very different sorts of adventures, at least judging by what happened when Winnie the Pooh came out of copyright protection last year.

  • Beginning on New Year's Day, any creator has the legal right to use the characters in new works, as long as it's the "Steamboat Willie" versions and not the near-century of animated evolution.

What to know: Mickey and Minnie were scheduled to enter the public domain in 2004, but Disney got a reprieve when Congress passed a 20-year extension.

  • They'll be joined on Jan. 1 by other such properties as "Lady Chatterley's Lover" by D.H Lawrence and "The Circus" directed by Charlie Chaplin, according to a list compiled by Jennifer Jenkins, director of the Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain.

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Editor's note: This lead and headline have been updated with additional developments.

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