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Steamboat Willie Goes Public

The mouse that captivated the hearts of children and adults is finally entering public domain. It has been 100 years since Disney created Steamboat Willie. He would have been free sooner, but Disney and others worked to extend copyright protection.

Copyright protection makes sense. The idea is to allow the creator of a work to profit from their creation. The highest profit is in the period immediately after the creation, so this gives the creator an opportunity to make some money without other creating derivative works. But 100 years is a bit much. After all, Disney has redrawn Mickey Mouse many times since the 1920's. Steamboat Willie was retired decades ago, yet Disney held on to the character. Today he is free! I created the images susing Leonardo AI.

For more information on Steamboat Willie and copyright, see No Mickey Mouse operation in Harvard Law Today.

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