Is the Jig Finally Up for Mickey Mouse?

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

As you all know, copyright terms have been steadily lengthened via congressional action. Currently, the term is the life of the author plus 70 years. For works authored by corporations—Superman, Mickey Mouse, etc.—the term is 95 years. Thanks to a retroactive clause passed in 1976, the magic cutoff year for corporate creations is currently 1922. Anything published in 1922 or before is in the public domain. Anything after that is still under copyright.

So what happens in 2018? That’s only five years away! Well, it’s 95 years from 1923, which means that works published in 1923 fall out of copyright. Every year after that, more and more old works enter the public domain. And in 2023 the boom falls: Mickey Mouse will no longer be under copyright.

Will Disney put up with this? Or will they team up with the usual suspects to get the term of copyright extended even further? Tim Lee gives us the lay of the land here.

UPDATE: Sorry, but I bolloxed up the explanation of why 1922 is the current cutoff year for copyright. It’s fixed now.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend