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Welcome to the public domain, Mickey Mouse

A screenshot of Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie from 1928.
Just be careful not to let major elements from later designs slip in. | Disney

It’s finally happened: after nearly a century, Mickey Mouse has slipped off Disney’s copyright leash. The first versions of the iconic cartoon character, seen in Steamboat Willie and a silent version of Plane Crazy, enter the public domain in the US on January 1st, 2024. (An early version of Minnie Mouse is also fortunately included.) There’s still a complicated mess of protections around Mickey, but today is a moment public domain advocates have awaited for decades — and there are plenty of other exciting new entries as well.

Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain, as usual, has a roundup of prominent works whose copyright protections lapse in the US today. The list includes sound recordings from 1923 and works in…

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