Mickey is Public . . . But Copyright Abuse is Still the Rage in Washington – JONATHAN TURLEY

After decades of litigation, Mickey and Minnie Mouse have entered the public domain as of January 1. For years, Disney has bullied and sued anyone attempting to use the image of Mickey or Minnie Mouse. They are not alone in such abusive actions. The company led other businesses in endless legislative measures to criminalize copyright violations and massively increase their power over consumers. That is why this is a moment of such significance. However, the draconian copyright laws will continue due to members of Congress of both parties throwing consumers and average Americans under the bus. There will remain an army of thuggish law firms who prey upon anyone who uses other images — threatening ruin in exchange for expensive settlements. Do not blame Disney. It is acting according to its nature. Blame your representatives of Congress.

Mickey and Minnie entered the public domain on Jan. 1 despite the fact that Mickey made his debut in the short film “Steamboat Willie” 95 years ago.

Think of that. This company has been able to brutalize consumers and artists for almost a century due to Congress caving to powerful industry lobbyists. Members have done nothing as average people were set upon by eat-what-you-kill law firms bringing thousands of cases a year.

Moreover, the later images of Mickey remain under copyright protection and Disney is again threatening anyone using such images with legal action: “We will, of course, continue to protect our rights in the more modern versions of Mickey Mouse and other works that remain subject to copyright.”

The Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain includes these images every year as part of its list of works that are now free for artists to remix and reimagine. That now includes Tigger, who, like Mickey Mouse, made his first appearance in 1928.

This was due despite the worst efforts of Congress, which has extended copyright terms in 1998. That led to a twenty-year period barring releases into the public domain.

In perhaps the most fitting celebration of the end of the long abuse of copyright laws over the image, one filmmaker has released a Mickey-based horror film to celebrate the occasion.

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