Although the copyright for the older character version has lapsed, Disney emphasized that the copyright status of modern iterations remains unchanged.
The earlier rendition of the Walt Disney Company's Mickey Mouse mascot has surged to the top spot among trending nonfungible tokens (NFTs) on the OpenSea marketplace. This comes as the character entered the public domain for the first time on January 1, specifically the version featured in the 1928 short film "Steamboat Willie." Notably, Steamboat Willie marked Mickey Mouse's inaugural public appearance. After nearly a century, the copyright for this particular character version expired, as U.S. law permits copyright to be held for a maximum of 95 years.
In the wake of the copyright expiration, three NFT collections associated with the vintage mascot claimed the top three positions on OpenSea's 24-hour trending list. The NFT collection named "Steamboat Willie Public Domain 2024" secured the number one position, boasting around $1.2 million in trading volume. Another collection titled "Steamboat Willie" secured the second spot, while "Steamboat Willie’s Riverboat" claimed the third highest ranking.
In addition to securing a prominent position on the 24-hour top charts on OpenSea, the Steamboat Willie Public Domain 2024 collection claimed the sixth spot, standing alongside popular collections like the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) and Pudgy Penguins. The Steamboat Willie collection also earned the eighth position on the same list.
While the copyright has lapsed for this rendition of the beloved mascot, Disney underscored that contemporary versions of Mickey Mouse will remain unaffected by the expiration of Steamboat Willie's copyright.
According to a statement provided to CNN by a Disney spokesperson, the company is committed to preserving its rights in the modern iterations of Mickey Mouse and other copyrighted works. The spokesperson emphasized that Disney will continue to safeguard against potential consumer confusion arising from unauthorized uses of Mickey and their other iconic characters.