Posted on December 28, 2023 at 12:00 PM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

Last year's big public domain story was Winnie-the-Pooh.

This year's headline is also a beloved childhood figure: Mickey Mouse.

Well, with a caveat, that is.

The Associated Press explains that only the earliest version of Mickey — the silent boat captain depicted in the 1928 short film Steamboat Willie — will enter public domain.

Still, it's significant in that fairly or unfairly, the US copyright system's expansion to its current ninety-five years has been dubbed "the Mickey Mouse Protection Act."

For what it's worth, law professor Jennifer Jenkins told the AP that many copyright holders beyond Walt Disney were responsible for lobbying to extend copyright protections.

Duke’s Center for the Study of Public Domain, of which Jenkins serves as director, highlights a number of other works that will enter the public domain next year.

Among them: Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H Lawrence; Orlando by Virginia Woolf; House at Pooh Corner (introducing the Tigger character) by A.A. Milne; the musical Animal Crackers; and, of course, the film Steamboat Willie.

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