On January 1, 2024, “Steamboat Willie” and therefore the first depiction of Mickey Mouse became public domain. Various Mickey Mouse projects have been announced in the days since, including a “Steamboat Willie” horror video game. The very first image of Mickey Mouse in “Steamboat Willie” is also now an NFT, minted at midnight on January 1.
Mickey Mouse NFTs
The NFT is part of a collection launched by Truth cofounder Alexander Taub. It’s a limited edition of 2,000, with each token minted for 0.001 ETH or about $2.
Bitcoin.com also reports that a Mickey-themed meme coin was launched on Ethereum with this description:
Mickey is and always will be a timeless icon of culture. Meme coins have become a digital reflection of culture. The launch of the Mickey token not only marks his release into public domain but also the beginning of a new adventure into the unknown.
Mickey’s design and personality have evolved over the years, and he has appeared in hundreds of different outfits in media and at Disney Parks. For now, only Mickey and Minnie as they appeared in “Steamboat Willie,” as well as “The Gallopin’ Gaucho,” (both released in late 1928) are public domain. “Plane Crazy,” the first Mickey film produced, was released after “Steamboat Willie” and “The Gallopin’ Gaucho,” in 1929, so remains under copyright until 2025.
In December, a Disney spokesperson said in a statement to The Associated Press, “Ever since Mickey Mouse’s first appearance in the 1928 short film ‘Steamboat Willie,’ people have associated the character with Disney’s stories, experiences, and authentic products. That will not change when the copyright in the Steamboat Willie film expires.
“More modern versions of Mickey will remain unaffected by the expiration of the Steamboat Willie copyright, and Mickey will continue to play a leading role as a global ambassador for the Walt Disney Company in our storytelling, theme park attractions, and merchandise.
“We will, of course, continue to protect our rights in the more modern versions of Mickey Mouse and other works that remain subject to copyright.”
Disney also still holds a trademark for Mickey as a symbol of their brand, meaning no other companies can start using a Mickey head logo although they could make Mickey-related media. As long as a trademark is still in use, it never expires.
The Disney spokesperson said the company “will work to safeguard against consumer confusion caused by unauthorized uses of Mickey and our other iconic characters.”