Early Versions of Mickey and Minnie Mouse Enter the Public Domain

Image copyright: Wikimedia Commons

The Facts

  • As of Monday, the Walt Disney movie, "Steamboat Willy," has moved into the public domain — meaning the Mickey Mouse character from this feature can be creatively used in new works.

  • With the release of "Steamboat Willy" and a version of "Plane Crazy," an early iteration of Minnie Mouse also has migrated to the public domain. Among the other works now in the public domain as of Jan. 1, 2024, are JM Barrie’s "Peter Pan," Virginia Woolf’s "Orlando," and Tigger, a friend of Winnie the Pooh.

The Spin

Narrative A

Moving works like Steamboat Willy Mickey into the public domain helps feed the veins of creativity and inspiration of modern-day artists. A wide array of new ideas are already being formulated by artists and writers alike — imagining different uses for Mickey, and the other characters, songs, and stories, that can now be used in various mediums. Building off these works keeps the arts going.

Narrative B

Whether the arts will be advanced by these works becoming part of the public domain remains to be seen. In the past, and this situation, we've seen beloved characters used for untasteful derivative purposes that do nothing but allow creators to make a quick buck through crass internet monetization. Already Mickey is popping up in works that will do nothing but make the public miss the true intent of the original artform.

Metaculus Prediction

Sign up to our daily newsletter