The iconic character from Walt Disney Company’s early animation history, Mickey Mouse, specifically in his 1928 appearance in “Steamboat Willie,” has officially entered the public domain.
This event marks a significant milestone in copyright history, as the character’s original version becomes freely available to the public after the expiration of the 95-year copyright term.
“Steamboat Willie” is notably recognized as Mickey Mouse’s first public appearance, setting a foundation for what would become one of the world’s most beloved and enduring characters.
NFT collections soar on OpenSea
Following this transition into the public domain, several NFT (Non-Fungible Token) collections inspired by the “Steamboat Willie” version of Mickey Mouse have surged in popularity. On OpenSea, a leading marketplace for NFT trading, three collections related to this early version of Mickey Mouse have achieved remarkable success.
The collection named “Steamboat Willie Public Domain 2024” notably clinched the number one spot in trading volume, amassing around $1.2 million. Additionally, another collection simply titled “Steamboat Willie” secured the second position, while “Steamboat Willie’s Riverboat” landed in the third spot.
These collections have not only dominated the 24-hour trending list on OpenSea but have also made notable appearances in the top charts alongside other popular collections like the Bored Ape Yacht Club and Pudgy Penguins.
Disney’s stance on modern Mickey
While the early version of Mickey Mouse has entered the public domain, The Walt Disney Company has issued a reminder that modern incarnations of the character remain under copyright protection. A spokesperson from Disney emphasized the company’s commitment to protecting the rights of their modern characters, including Mickey Mouse.
In a statement to CNN, they expressed Disney’s intention to “work to safeguard against consumer confusion caused by unauthorized uses of Mickey and other iconic characters.” This declaration is a clear indication of the company’s ongoing efforts to maintain control over the use and representation of their current intellectual properties, despite the historical shift of the 1928 character into public territory.