The LA Times rounds up the epic story of how the original Mickey Mouse may just not be “copyright Disney” anymore:
All signs pointed to a Hollywood ending with Disney and Mickey Mouse living happily ever after — at least until a grumpy former employee looked closely at fine print long forgotten in company archives.
Film credits from the 1920s revealed imprecision in copyright claims that some experts say could invalidate Disney’s long-held copyright, though a Disney lawyer dismissed that idea as “frivolous.”
Although studio executives are not yet hurling themselves from the parapets of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, the unexpected discovery raises an intriguing question: Is it possible that Mickey Mouse now belongs to the world — and that his likeness is usable by anybody for anything?
As the story takes pains to explain, Disney owns the trademark on the more recent evolution of the Mouse, but the earlier versions are in public domain–despite Congress constantly passing copyright extensions for just this very reason — so copyright is a bit hazy. The story also contains a great roundup of Disney’s various copyright battles over the years, and how the teensy-tiny loopholes they have used against others may now be turned against the studio giant.
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