The earliest iteration of Mickey Mouse, Steamboat Willie, is now in the public domain, and creative people out there haven’t spared a moment in capitalizing on this fact.
Disney has long been at the forefront of copyright and intellectual property law, pushing to maintain its hold on flagship characters since the 1950s. It couldn’t last forever though, and despite the Copyright Term Extension Act being known colloquially as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, Steamboat Willie and an early version of Minnie Mouse and Peg Leg Pete are now a free-for-all.
The expiration of copyright protections is designed to allow for creative freedom after an artist has benefited from their original works. Artists and creators are inspired by each other and it is in everyone’s interest for works to end up in the public domain. Disney themselves have benefited from this, with adaptations of many classic fairytales. It’s also vital for archivists to be able to save old media without legal worries.
How have people been using Steamboat Willie?
People all over the world have been making excellent use of Steamboat Willie since 1 Jan. Here are some of the best: