27th aug, 2008

Mickey Mouse and the public domain

The headline is not the name of a new cartoon featuring the worlds best known cartoon character – valued to 3 billion $$.

L.A. Times has a long article on wether the first Mickey movie “steam boat Willie” has passed into the public domain. Its a really interesting read where the controversy is wether Disney missed a copyright renewal in the 1920’ies. Some people think they did and as a result steam boat Mickey is now public domain. A legal paper is cited in the article and can be found here.

An interesting fast is that teh reason for disneys near militant attitude towards copyrights is to be found in the early history of the company. One of Walt Disneys firs characters was Oswald the lucky rabbit. The character became very popular and was taken over by a publisher who also stole a large part of Disneys cartoonists to open a new studio. Disney resented this very much and as a result he was very focused on IP when he created his next character: Mickey Mouse. As it happens this story is nearly identical to danish gamedesigner ITE – creator of Hugo the Troll. ITE´s first character was also named Oswald (a polar bear though) and this character was also snatched by a partner through contractual wizardry. this also resulted in the company getting very focused on IP, a focus which remains today.

(c) Disney?

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