Judicial Follies: Here comes Mickey
Art Law

Judicial Follies: Here comes Mickey

Back in 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court decided a case upholding a law Congress passed in 1998 that had quickly been renamed the “Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act.” The name change was in honor of one of Congress’ most famous members who had himself just expired because of a skiing mishap with a tree. The law was less-flatteringly known as the “Mickey Mouse Act,” because the Disney corporation was one of the most tireless advocates for the extension. Under the previous law, copyrights held by corporations were good for 75 years from the date that a work or — as Disney worried — a cartoon character was originally copyrighted. As it happened, many of Disney’s oldest copyrights were about to expire, chief among these being Mickey Mouse, who was created in 1928 as the world’s first talking cartoon character and would have passed into the public domain for anyone who wanted to sell drawings, posters, or even watches, in 2003. Thanks to the 1998 law and the 2003 Supreme Court decision, Mickey will remain safely in Disney’s three-fingered hands until 2023. A lot of folks were expecting that, oh, long about 2018, Disney would again begin agitating for […]

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