The Public Domain is about to grow!

In a few weeks for the first time in about 20 years a year’s worth of works will be added to the Public Domain. This used to happen every year until the 90s when Disney got the laws rewritten to protect Mickey Mouse from entering.

On January 1st works first published in 1923 will be free to use by anyone. A few Highlights:

The Picture of Dorian Gray
Frost’s Stopping by the Woods…
Cecil B DeMille’ Ten Commandments

After this year, the yearly progression begins again (unless new laws stop it) which means the Mouse will be Public Domain in 2024.

More info here.

Dang it! I just bought The Picture of Dorian Gray!

I hope this can continue.

Absolutely not true. Steamboat Willie and Plane Crazy and any other cartoons Mickey appeared in 1928 will go into the public domain. The Mickey Mouse character will not, although others will be free to use those and only those characteristics that were present in those cartoons. Even so, any trademarked aspects of the character will continue on. Whether characteristics that will go into the public domain are trademarked and protected is something an Intellectual property lawyer will have to tell you.

In short, you can sell and post and do all the other stuff with Steamboat Willie and Plane Crazy that you can do with other older works, but you are not completely free to use the Mickey Mouse character in original works.

Nitpick, but The Picture of Dorian Gray in novel form was already public domain. What’s becoming public now is “Theodore Pratt’s stage adaptation”. And it’s only the first, silent, C.B. DeMille version of The Ten Commandments that is becoming public domain. The more famous 1956 version is still under copyright.

Finally I can make my super hero movie set in the “Stopping by the Woods…” universe.

"Whose woods these are I think I know… they’re BLACK PANTHER’S!!

I was going by what the article said. Thank you for clarifying. Although, I am not sure it warrants an “Absolutely not true”. The part about the years starting to progress is 100% true (again, unless they change current law) and the part about MM is more “Not exactly, but…” But thanks for correcting either way.

The point is, Disney’s intellectual property is protected by both copyright and trademark law, which cover different things in different ways and have very little overlap. And while some copyrights will soon be ending, Disney can hold onto their trademarks for as long as they want to.

Right now, if I take a copy of Steamboat Willie or Fantasia and burn it to a DVD, or post it on YouTube, I can get in trouble for violating copyright. If I draw my own picture of Mickey on a shirt and sell it, I can get in trouble for violating trademark. If I take a still frame from Steamboat Willie or Fantasia and photographically print it on a shirt, I could potentially get in trouble for violating both copyright and trademark (though the copyright case might be debatable).

In a few years time, I will, if I like, be allowed to sell DVDs of Steamboat Willie and post it on YouTube, and Disney won’t be able to do a thing about it. But I still won’t be able to do that with Fantasia, since it’ll still be under copyright for however many more years. And I still won’t be able to sell the shirts (whether printed or drawn), because those will still be trademark violations.

I imagine that Disney’s lawyers are going to have their hands full in the next few years with people who don’t understand this distinction.

The first two books I thought of were “A Passage to India” and “An American Tragedy”, but those were published in '24 and '25, respectively.

That one never gets old.



I think you got that backwards.