Streamboat to Freeboat: Mickey’s Public Domain Adventure

  • Mehak Mahapatra
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  • Mehak Mahapatra

    Student at Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad, India

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After being protected by copyright for almost a century, Mickey Mouse, or a version of it, hopped into the public domain in the United States on January 1, 2024. The legendary mouse first appeared in "Steamboat Willie and the silent rendition of Plane Crazy" in 1928, and as of New Year’s Day 2024, it could be seen in the public domain. While previous years have seen considerable entries to the public domain, the excitement around Mickey's arrival was unprecedented. What set this event apart wasn't just Mickey's status as a well-known copyrighted figure. While other famous personalities, such as Sherlock Holmes and Winnie the Pooh, had received a bit of spotlight, Mickey's situation drew particularly a lot of attention. The attraction originated from the convoluted 95-year-old three-way relationship that involved Mickey, Disney, and the Public Domain, a chronicle as fascinating as any Disney story. Their connection exemplified the unclear dynamics captured in the phrase "it's complicated," which is similar to contemporary dramas. Therefore, the question arises: What exactly does Micky’s Streamboat Willie version entering the public domain mean? There is a lot of misinformation floating around online about these topics. My purpose for the following research paper is to provide a clear explanation. What activities can be carried out using Mickey starting this year; 2024? How will this change affect Disney? Does Disney continue to own the copyrights to subsequent editions of Mickey? On top of that, is trademark law applicable to this scenario?


Research Paper


International Journal of Law Management and Humanities, Volume 7, Issue 2, Page 3826 - 3836


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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution -NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) (, which permits remixing, adapting, and building upon the work for non-commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited.


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