VINTAGE MICKEY’S COPYRIGHT EXPIRY SPURS NFT WORLD INTEREST 

The NFT marketplace OpenSea has witnessed a significant uptick in trading activity centered around an iconic figure – Mickey Mouse. This surge is attributed to the entry of the vintage 1928 version of Mickey Mouse, featured in “Steamboat Willie,” into the public domain. The expiration of the 95-year copyright on January 1, 2024, has opened the doors for this classic iteration of Mickey to be freely used and celebrated in various forms, including NFTs.

Steamboat Willie NFTs Trend on OpenSea

The NFT collection “Steamboat Willie Public Domain 2024” quickly became a top trend on OpenSea, closely followed by other collections like “Steamboat Willie” and “Steamboat Willie’s Riverboat.” These collections highlight the distinctive features of the 1928 version of Mickey, such as his lack of gloves and oversized shoes and small black oval eyes without pupils. This contrasts with the modern representation of Mickey Mouse, which Disney continues to hold copyright over.

Disney’s Continued Protection of Modern Mickey

Despite the public domain status of Steamboat Willie, Disney remains vigilant in protecting its rights over the current version of Mickey Mouse and other copyrighted characters. A spokesperson from Disney emphasized their ongoing efforts to safeguard their intellectual property and prevent consumer confusion from unauthorized uses. Disney plans to keep Mickey as a global ambassador in its storytelling, theme parks, and merchandise.

Navigating the Public Domain Usage

The entry of Steamboat Willie into the public domain means creators can now reimagine this version of Mickey Mouse without legal constraints. However, Harvard Law School professor Rebecca Tushnet cautions against replicating elements from the modern Mickey Mouse, as Disney still holds trademarks on those. She advises that creating new content inspired by Steamboat Willie is key to avoiding copyright infringement issues.

The transition of Steamboat Willie into the public domain marks a historic moment in intellectual property rights and opens up creative avenues for artists and creators, particularly in the evolving world of NFTs. With careful navigation of the legal landscape, Steamboat Willie can inspire a new wave of artistic expression, honoring a timeless character’s legacy while respecting contemporary copyright laws.

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