Mickey Mouse to Enter the Public Domain in 2024, Popeye in 2025; More to Come

6a0133ec87bd6d970b01bb08fe52c6970d Mickey
What's available this year? Felix the Cat for one. Also, Laurel and Hardy, the Little Rascals, and the original Bambi.

2019 ushers in a very important new era for the toy industry. After a 21 year lapse, intellectual property will again be entering the public domain. The law that put this into practice, the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) also known as the  "The Sonny Bono Law" (no kidding), has finally come to an end.

Under the law, IP is protected for 95 years after publication. That means that IP protection issued in 1923 and thereafter is no longer enforceable. 

8f1285d87618b6338265f7dee652f133Popeye's Original Appearance

Mickey Mouse first appeared as "Steamboat Wille" in 1928, so in 2024 anyone can use the Steamboat Willie image without paying any royalties. They can display it, use it on merchandise and even create new stories featuring him. What they cannot do is use any versions of Mickey Mouse, Popeye or any other character created later. You have to wait for those future iterations to come into the public domain.

Other cartoon classics will follow. Here are just a few of them with the year they will enter the public domain:

Popeye                     2025

Betty Boop                2026

Tom and Jerry           2028

Snow White              2035

Superman                 2035

Bugs Bunny              2037

Captain American     2038

What's available this year? Felix the Cat for one. Also, Laurel and Hardy, the Little Rascals, and the original Bambi, a Life in the Woods, written by Felix Salten and illustrated by Barbara Cooney.

 

One thought

  1. There was an episode of “Adam Ruins Everything” that reported Disney lobbied congress to change copyright laws to extend the time by decades to keep Mickey Mouse out of the public domain, and that they built a great deal of their content from previously copyrighted works that were in the public domain.
    There are time limits as well on patent protection (20 years). But if you have a patent and don’t pay the maintenance fees, you lose your constitutional rights to the creation.

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