First Trailer Drops For Mickey Mouse Horror Movie Featuring Steamboat Willie After Disney Loses Copyright On Character

Posted January 2, 2024 by with 4 comments

Disney has lost the copyright on the original version of their Mickey Mouse character, Steamboat Willie, which means anyone can now use depictions of the mouse in their own creative works. Given how creepy Willie is, it’s fitting that one of his first appearances outside of the Disney empire will be in a horror movie called Mickey’s Mouse Trap. Granted, this looks like one of the worst movies ever made, but it still might be better than anything Disney has done in the last few years. Here’s the inevitable direct-to-streaming bomb:

As you’ll recall, the same thing happened to poor Winnie The Pooh when copyright ran out on him in 2022.

I had to look up how/why Disney lost their copyright on Steamboat Willie (note that they still have copyright on the modern and smiley-faced Mickey), and it turns out U.S. law only allows copyright to be held for 95 years, and I guess you can’t renew it. Here’s an explanation from the Library of Congress:

Copyright law protects a work from the moment the author creates and fixes it in a tangible form of expression, such as on paper, in a recording, or in a digital photograph. The length of copyright protection depends on several factors. Generally, for most works created after 1978, protection lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. For anonymous works, pseudonymous works, or works made for hire, the copyright term is 95 years from the year of first publication or 120 years from creation, whichever comes first.

When the copyright term expires, a work becomes part of the public domain, and anyone can use it without permission from the author. The public domain also includes material that copyright law never protects—such as ideas, facts, titles, discoveries, procedures, and works created by the U.S. federal government. Although copyright does not protect this material, patent or trademark laws might apply in some circumstances. Works in the public domain often inspire new works, adaptations, and derivative works, further enriching the country’s cultural landscape.