Meet Tom the Dancing Bug's newest character: Mickey Mouse!

Originally published at: Meet Tom the Dancing Bug's newest character: Mickey Mouse! - Boing Boing


Minnie Mouse was in Steamboat Willie? Right?


I can’t wait to learn How to Draw Mickey Mouse!


So when will all the newly self-taught experts on laws regarding copyright vs trademarks show up?


She was!

I’m not self taught, I am not quite a lawyer yet, and I am no expert on either copyright or trademark law. But yeah, the status of Mickey Mouse is still very much up in the air. The short film Steamboat Willie is unquestionably now in the public domain. If you want to download a copy and reupload it to YouTube under your name, knock yourself out. If you want to hold a screening in your neighborhood and charge $10 a ticket, knock yourself out. But using Mickey’s likeness to make other comics…that’s firmly in “it depends” territory. But the biggest factor is trademark law, and, therefore, whether a reasonable person would believe the usage is something actually produced or endorsed by Disney. Here, since Tom the Dancing Bug is an established entity in its own right, and it’s clearly identified as being written by Ruben Bolling, with his own copyright notice right there on the comic, and because it’s clearly parody, I can’t see an argument that anyone would believe Disney produced this. So I think Ruben is safe. Not that that would necessarily stop Disney from sending a cease and desist letter anyway, but BoingBoing historically hasn’t been easy to push around.


Mickey sans white gloves (with three lines on the back): safe to use. Post “steam boat” Mickey with gloves: less clear. Consequently that final panel “Classix Comix” is waving some risky pixels around.

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But let’s not forget: he was depicted wearing those gloves in the original title card for Steamboat Willie, so there’s an argument to make that that version of the character is public domain too.

(Also, does Minnie have some sort of pasties in that title card?)


Can any subsequent lawsuits be titled: “Copyright Gloves are Off Now” ? Or “Title Cards are not En-titled Cards” ? etc


Ruben right now…

Season 9 Phoebe GIF by Friends


This is great news for people like me that this that copyright has to end (preferably, sooner than 95 years). But also it’s worth a reminder that Steamboat Willie has actually been in the public domain a long time, no one wanted to spend the money to fight Disney on it.

It looks like even some of the links to original law review articles are broken, but I’ve been an IP lawyer for over 26 years now and they all seemed very strong to me when I read them contemporaneously.


way to go Mr. Bolling! not wasting any time jumping on this [steam]boat!
t00t t00t!


Yeah, a lot of copyrights back when there were stricter technical requirements for having a valid copyright are suspect. It was so easy to screw something up. Another example is the first edition of the book Alcoholics Anonymous. It was copyrighted in 1939, and at the time, copyrights were good for 28 years (you know this, I’m just saying this for everyone else), renewable one time for a second 28 year term. Well they published a second edition in 1955, and they registered a copyright on that, mistakenly believing that this meant they no longer needed to renew the copyright on the first edition. That copyright then expired in 1967, before the copyright extension acts were passed. The first 164 pages of the current edition of Alcoholics Anonymous are virtually unchanged from the first edition, and so are in the public domain. AA’s publishing arm has nonetheless asked individual groups to pretend that the copyright is still valid and to not photocopy those pages to give out to people for free. Many do anyway, and those pages are everywhere online. Which isn’t a bad thing. There’s even a gender neutral version someone produced.


I can’t wait for Mickey to do some time travelling to an era where he’s not in the public domain.


allright then; but wikimedia seems more appropriate (why nobody posted so far the actual film, is a bit beyond me):


And to bounce off your point into wider issues around orphan works.

(I’m not a lawyer, I’m a mathematician. There’s probably mistakes.)

Copyright infringement is strict liability, so even if you did your due diligence and put in a load of work establishing that a work was on a X years + X years renewal and they didn’t renew, it can be expensive to establish that in court and if you lose you’re paying per infringement.

Most works in this window aren’t even worth the time for the due diligence to establish that renewal didn’t happen, let alone a principled copyright case.

It’s related to the bullshit where “happy birthday” was legally in the public domain, but nobody wanted to fight the folks claiming they still held a copyright on it until someone spent way too much letting it go to court.

I still like Lessig’s suggestion of retuning to a X years plus renew for X years on copyright, but you pay a fee towards maintaining a public database for who holds these long copyrights.

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It is going to be interesting where this all goes. How much a trademark protects a character’s name and image or not.

Clearly the media is in public domain. There have been many examples of specific media entering the public domain, but not the character before. Like the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons.

It will be one thing to use the character in a satirical cartoon, or this weird video game I saw a trailer for, or some other media where it is almost parody, as they are using the likeness, but changing the character some. But if say Warner Brothers tried to make a “New Adventures of Steamboat Willie”, I think they would get sued.

It is mind blowing that a whole ass film, Night of the Living Dead, had no copyright due to an oversight of not posting one at the beginning of the film!

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Interesting. Apparently it did actually have a copyright notice, but it listed an earlier version of the title, before they settled on Night of the Living Dead, so that makes it even worse. And yet…I think a pretty good argument could be made that George Romero hasn’t exactly suffered as a result.


Did someone post this somewhere?

I dunno, much like the Winnie the Pooh horror film, this just seems really boring and lazy…

However… Randy Milholland is starting a new comic…


I see that you chose to post a link to the full version. Most of the videos I’ve seen posted lately are the version that has some of the pig torture edited out. I’m sure that the Walt Disney Corporation would prefer that we all forget about that part…