If You Give a Mouse Copyright Protection, He’ll Ask for an Extension: Disney’s Influence and Manipulation of U.S. Copyright Law

Image by Ub Iwerks & Walt Disney at Moma

Madison Yoder, Contributing Member 2021-2022

Intellectual Property and Computer Law Journal

            Disney’s flagship character and company mascot, Mickey Mouse, has brought smiles to the faces of millions, if not billons, of people in his ninety-four-years of life. The character is such a hit that in addition to being the face of Disney, he has become a household name, with a recognition rate higher than Santa Claus.[1] This comes as no surprise to anyone that has owned products with Mickey Mouse on them or visited a Disney theme park, as the iconic mouse is plastered on everything from designer handbags to children’s toys.[2] Mickey has continued to make his mark on popular culture and the hearts of millions since his debut in 1928’s Steamboat Willie, but many people are unaware of the unprecedented impact that the character has had on United States copyright law.[3]  

            Mickey Mouse was born under the Copyright Act of 1909, entitling him to fifty-six years of copyright protection, yet Disney has managed to keep him protected long after that by manipulating copyright law in its favor.[4] It is no secret that Mickey is one of its most recognizable and lucrative characters, having become the company’s bona fide mascot over the years, and Disney has fought tooth and nail to keep him out of the public domain.[5] While Mickey Mouse is still protected by copyright law, Disney has the exclusive right to sell merchandise, make derivative works, and distribute the media he appears in, meaning it is also entitled to all of the profits from these ventures.[6] Once his copyright expires and he falls into the public domain, Disney will not retain this exclusivity and members of the public may use him—as he appears in Steamboat Willie—to their heart’s content.[7] To prolong its grasp over its beloved character and the profits that come with him, Disney has manipulated copyright law to extend Mickey’s copyright term, thereby keeping him out of the public domain for decades.[8]

            This article provides an overview of the effect Disney and Mickey Mouse have had on U.S. copyright law, as well as the subsequent impact on the public domain. It will also briefly touch on how Disney will likely use trademark law to retain its grasp on the character.

Overview of Copyright Law

            In order to understand the influence that Mickey Mouse and Disney have had on copyright law, it is necessary to understand the basics of what copyright protection is. Copyright is a form of protection provided by the United States Constitution to original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression, possess minimal creativity, and are created by a human author.[9] In order to promote creativity and innovation, the Constitution affords authors certain exclusive rights over their works for a limited time.[10] The rationale behind copyright law is to provide creators and authors with an incentive to create original works by giving them a limited monopoly over their creations.[11]

            Copyright law provides the copyright owner with valuable exclusive rights over the protected work, including the right to: reproduce the work, prepare derivative works based on the protected work, and distribute copies.[12] The reproduction right is one of the most important rights to a copyright owner because it is at the heart of many copyright infringement lawsuits.[13] If someone uploads a copyrighted song to a website, such as Napster, without authorization, that person has infringed on the copyright owner’s exclusive right to reproduce the song.[14] The right to create derivative works based on the copyrighted work is also quite valuable because it grants the owner the ability to prepare, or authorize a third-party to prepare, an adaptation of the copyrighted work.[15] A derivative work is a work based on an existing copyrighted work, such as a film or television show based on a novel, making it a particularly significant right for authors.[16] If someone were to create and produce a new movie based on Stephen King’s novel Carrie without his permission, that person will have infringed on King’s right to create or authorize derivative works based on Carrie.[17] The right to distribute copies of a protected work provides the copyright owner control over how the work is transferred to the public, such as by selling copies of a novel at a bookstore or renting a copy at a library.[18]

            Copyright law has always provided copyright owners with these exclusive rights for a limited time, but that limit has changed over the years.[19] The first Copyright Act was implemented in 1790 and granted copyright protection for a fourteen-year period, with the option to renew protection for another fourteen-year term.[20] In 1831, Congress extended this time limit to provide authors with an initial protection term of twenty-eight years while keeping the renewal term the same at fourteen years.[21] Another major revision to protection terms under the Copyright Act occurred in 1909, with the initial twenty-eight-year term remaining unchanged while the renewal term was extended to twenty-eight years.[22] In the years leading up to Disney’s involvement, from the Copyright Act of 1790 to the Copyright Act of 1909, the total protection term increased from twenty-eight to fifty-six years.[23]

            There are important public policy reasons behind copyright term limits that go hand-in-hand with the policy reasons behind copyright protection. Whereas copyright protection is an incentive for creators to produce original works, copyright term limits ensure the creators’ monopoly on their works doesn’t last forever so the work can eventually enter the public domain.[24] When a work enters the public domain, it is no longer under copyright protection and is therefore owned by the public, who also own all of the exclusive rights the previous copyright owner held.[25] The public domain promotes learning and the concept that knowledge should be accessible to all, not just those who can afford it.[26] Works in the public domain may be used freely, meaning libraries are permitted to digitize older works and make them accessible via the internet, where any member of the public may access them at no cost.[27] This not only promotes learning, but also fosters innovation and the creation of new works, because the public is able to create work based on or inspired by public domain material without worrying about obtaining permission or paying licensing fees.[28] For a while, copyright term limits appeared to both incentivize authors and benefit the public equally, since works were entering the public domain at a steady rate. Then Disney came along, and it got greedy.

Disney’s (Controversial) Influence on U.S. Copyright Law

            Before Walt Disney was known to the public as the brains behind a multi-billion-dollar business, he was pitching a cartoon character to Universal Studios.[29] “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit” was Disney’s first success in the animation world, but unfortunately it was a short-lived one—for Disney, anyway.[30] Following the success of the character Disney created for it in 1927, Universal hired nearly every employee at Walt Disney Studios out from under him in 1928, taking his beloved Oswald with it.[31] This experience taught him an important lesson and he vowed to always own everything he created—though his company would take “always” a bit too seriously later on.[32] Determined to make a comeback, he scrambled to outdo himself and come up with a character the world would adore more than Oswald.[33] Disney eventually settled on Mickey Mouse, debuting him in the animated short Steamboat Willie, and the rest is history.[34]

            By 1933, five years after his premiere in Steamboat Willie, Mickey Mouse was the “Big Cheese,” and the lovable cartoon character was raking in $1 million a year in merchandise sales—nearly $21.3 million in 2022.[35] Mickey had become the most popular animated character in the country, so much so that the military requested Disney draw cartoons to cheer up the men aboard the USS Wasp during World War II.[36] The market for products with Mickey’s face on them exploded, and products ranged from stuffed toys, watches for both adults and children, and a child-sized gas mask.[37] By 1940, Disney was basking in the success of characters, having given Mickey some friends that have proved to be nearly as popular as the original mouse: Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, and Donald Duck.[38]

            In addition to the country falling in love with “Mickey & Friends,” there was another reason the characters generated such impressive merchandise sales: only Disney had the power to produce Mickey Mouse products or license his image to other brands until his copyright protection expired.[39] Mickey and his pals were created under the 1909 Copyright Act, providing Disney with a monopoly over the characters for fifty-six years.[40] In Mickey’s case, this meant the Steamboat Willie version of him would enter the public domain in 1984 and members of the public would be able to use his likeness to their heart’s content.[41] By the time the 1970s rolled around, it had amassed a respectable collection of iconic characters, but the corporate minds at Disney knew that losing the exclusive rights over Mickey Mouse would be an enormous financial blow to the company.[42]

            As Mickey’s entrance into the public domain loomed ahead, and Disney began to grow antsy at the thought of losing the rights to its most famous and lucrative character, Congress enacted the Copyright Act of 1976.[43] The Copyright Act of 1976 gave U.S. copyright law a major upgrade to conform to European standards, extending the protection term for copyrighted works and doing away with the familiar two-term system that required renewing the copyright.[44] Under the 1976 Act, works created by an individual author were protected for the life of the author plus fifty years, and works created for and owned by a corporation (“works for hire”) were entitled to seventy-five years of protection.[45] Just like that, Mickey’s long-awaited entrance into the public domain was pushed back to 2003, buying Disney some time to plan its next move.[46]

            This time around, Disney was committed to doing whatever necessary to keep the crown jewel of their intellectual property portfolio protected, so it hired lobbyists and opened an office in Washington in 1990.[47] Mickey caught a break in 1997, five years before his copyright was due to expire, when the Copyright Term Extension Act (“CTEA”) was introduced, which proposed the copyright term be extended another twenty years.[48] Under the CTEA, works created by individual authors are protected for the life of the author plus seventy years, while works for hire are protected for ninety-five years, stretching the lifespan of Steamboat Willie’s copyright to 2023.[49] Disney’s valuation of Mickey Mouse at this point was $8 billion, so it latched onto the CTEA as a means of retaining control over its mascot, and the immense revenue generated by him, for another twenty years.[50]

            Disney began seeking members of both political parties to co-sponsor the bill and became the unofficial face of the CTEA as it wielded its corporate influence around D.C.[51] The Act was introduced by two Republican representatives, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch and House Judiciary Committee Intellectual Property Subcommittee Chairman Howard Coble, but stalled in both Committees for several months.[52] Fortunately for Disney, this obstacle was no match for its massive checkbook.[53] The Disney Political Action Committee (“PAC”) approached members of the two Judiciary Committees to co-sponsor the bill, incentivizing them with direct campaign contributions totaling $98,905 to Democratic Members and $53,807 to Republican Members.[54] Knowing that it couldn’t rely solely on members from those Committees, it recruited more political supporters and contributed “nearly $800,000 to political campaigns in the 1997-98 cycle.”[55] This tactic was successful, as nine of the twelve sponsors of the Senate bill and ten of the thirteen sponsors of the House bill received contributions from Disney’s PAC, which provided that last little oomph to reignite Congressional interest in the Act.[56]

            Disney’s then-CEO, Michael Eisner, knew what Mickey & Friends were worth to the company, particularly in terms of merchandise sales, so it ramped up its lobbying efforts and spent $6.3 million in just two years.[57] While $6.3 million seems like an excessive amount of money to spend in such a short amount of time, it was only roughly .08% of the company’s valuation of Mickey at that time.[58] Disney’s sizable contribution in support of the Act undoubtedly had an impact on the circumstances under which the Act was finally passed.[59] Instead of holding a public hearing and allowing those who may be negatively impacted by extended copyright terms to voice their opinion, Congress elected to not give notice to the public in the hopes of avoiding backlash before the CTEA was passed.[60] Rather, the Act was passed in a single day without fanfare, passing through the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate by unanimous consent before being passed through the House by a voice vote.[61] On October 27, 1998, twenty days after passing through the Senate and the House, the Copyright Term Extension Act was signed into law by President Clinton.[62] Just like that, Disney got to reap the benefits of its mascot for another twenty years.

Disney’s Love-Hate Relationship with the Public Domain

            Disney breathed a sigh of relief upon the passage of the CTEA because while Mickey fueled its fight to extend copyright terms, it was not the only character it stood to lose to the public domain.[63] Before copyright terms were retroactively extended in 1998, most of Mickey’s best friends were scheduled to follow him into the public domain shortly after Steamboat Willie’s copyright expired; these included Minnie in 2003, Pluto in 2005, Goofy in 2007, and Donald Duck in 2009.[64] This means that anyone may create a derivative work, such as a film or comic strip, and sell merchandise based on the public domain character, as well as publicly show a public domain film without obtaining permission or paying a fee.[65] However, this can come with limitations—and in Mickey’s case, it comes with a lot.[66]

            The Mouse has undergone several major transformations in his ninety-four-year life, and the Steamboat Willie version is vastly different from the modern Mickey we see today. One of the most notable changes is the addition of his iconic white gloves, as the original version of Mickey had none; that iteration of the character didn’t come along until 1929, meaning one must wait until 2024 to use his gloves in a derivative work.[67] Steamboat Willie is in black-and-white and Mickey didn’t make an appearance in color until 1932’s Parade of the Award Nominees, clad in green shorts and yellow shoes—his signature red shorts were not introduced until The Band Concert in 1935.[68] Mickey also did not earn his pupils until Fantasia was released in 1940, having been drawn with black dots or “pie eyes” up to that point.[69] Someone that desires to recreate Mickey Mouse in a derivative work once Steamboat Willie’s copyright expires must use a version of him that is so old and unfamiliar, many young people today would not recognize him.[70] While anyone may show the film at will, including for a profit, those who wish to create a derivative work or create and sell Mickey merchandise must toe a fine line between public domain Mickey and copyrighted Mickey.[71]

            In addition to Walt Disney’s prized collection of animated characters, the company’s first major motion picture, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was set to enter the public domain in 2012—though it wouldn’t be Snow White’s first experience in the public domain.[72] In fact, Snow White, also known as Keeper of the Dwarfs, has been in the public domain for quite a while; it was published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812, albeit a much darker version than the one depicted in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.[73] Although published more than a century before Disney’s G-Rated film, it continues to inspire generations of people, but no one was more inspired by the fairytale than Walt Disney.[74] Disney himself said the princess that put him on the map was inspired by a Snow White play he saw as a teenager because the original story had been in the public domain long enough to have multiple works based off of it by this time.[75] Despite the fact that the character and premise were already known to the public, Walt Disney managed to give Snow White a new lease on life by weaving a different tale, one with talking animals, friendly dwarfs, and more child-oriented circumstances.[76]

            The public domain is how Disney created its first blockbuster hit, but it wouldn’t be the last time that the company combed through unprotected works for new source material.[77] On the contrary, Disney is estimated to have based at least fifty films on works in the public domain, including Frozen (from Hans Christian Anderson’s Ice Queen), Beauty and the Beast (by G-S Barbot de Villeneuve), and Sleeping Beauty (from Charles Perrault’s folk tale).[78] It is not much of a stretch to argue the company would not be the same media powerhouse it is today without yanking plotlines straight from the public domain, especially considering Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs brought in $184.9 million ($982.1 million in 2019) on a budget of $1.49 million.[79] Disney’s success story is a perfect example of the purpose the public domain serves: to allow people to build on the ideas of others in new and creative ways.[80] If not for the public domain, it is possible Steamboat Willie would not have been created, as it was based on Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill Jr.[81] The company owes much of its success to the public domain, yet is not particularly eager to return that favor.[82]

            Despite Disney’s extensive history of reimagining works in the public domain, it has worked tirelessly to prevent others from finding inspiration in both their creations and many of the works published after 1923.[83] Walt Disney was able to draw inspiration from public domain works that had an obvious impact on him in his youth, but his company’s relentless lobbying for the CTEA has made it nearly impossible for generations of people to do the same stifling creativity in the process.[84] The CTEA did not foster innovation as the Act’s sponsors claimed because, rather than merely implementing an extended copyright term for future works, it retroactively extended the copyright terms on all works created after 1922.[85] Millions of authors, artists, and creators were barred from using influential works from their childhoods to spark their creative genius, including Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), and Singin’ in the Rain (1952).[86] Until the CTEA was enacted, titles were added to the public domain regularly; however, its enactment led to a twenty-three year drought, with no new works added until 2019.[87] Disney’s continuing use of public domain material, coupled with its manipulation of U.S. copyright law so no one is afforded that same privilege, begs the question: is it the public domain, or Disney’s domain?

Will Disney Use Trademark Law to Retain Its Grasp on Mickey Mouse?

            Because Disney has not made any recent moves to attempt another copyright term extension, it is safe to assume it has exhausted all possible avenues to retain Mickey’s copyright.[88] However, this doesn’t mean that Mickey will be fully freed from Disney’s clutches, as it currently holds at least nineteen trademarks on his likeness and the words “Mickey Mouse.”[89] These “Mouse Marks” cover everything from live action and animated television shows, theme parks, and computer games for the words “Mickey Mouse,” to his visual appearance in live action and animated films.[90] Disney’s trademarks may prevent a competitor from creating Mickey merchandise or a movie he stars in, and seeing as how the company has strategically made Mickey Mouse synonymous with Walt Disney, it is likely that the character will never be fully free from its corporate clutches.[91]

            A trademark includes any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination of these, that is used by an individual or corporate entity to identify and distinguish their goods from those manufactured and sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods.[92] Whereas copyright law fosters creativity and innovation by limiting protection terms, trademark protection is indefinite because its goal is to protect consumers and constrain unfair competition.[93] When a brand marks a product with a distinctive and unique mark, it communicates to consumers that the product was made by a specific brand and therefore embodies the attributes and standards associated with that brand.[94] Trademark infringement occurs when a trademark is used on or in connection with goods without authorization in a way that is likely to confuse or deceive consumers as to the source of the goods.[95] A common example of trademark infringement is a counterfeit bag that confuses or deceives consumers into believing it is a luxury bag of the same quality.

            In order to trademark a character, it must have obtained a secondary meaning “so that a consumer automatically associates the character with a certain company, product, or service because the likelihood of confusion is great.”[96] Although most characters fall short of satisfying this standard, such as the unlikelihood that consumers will associate James Bond with the company that originally created him, Mickey Mouse is one of the rare exceptions.[97] Disney has slowly and steadily built up Mickey’s secondary meaning by featuring him so prominently in their corporate dealings, he is essentially the “preeminent symbol of the Walt Disney Company.”[98] This was made more obvious when Walt Disney Animation Studios changed its opening logo to a clip from Steamboat Willie, because this serves to further cement the connection between the company and Mickey from Steamboat Willie specifically.[99] It would be nearly impossible to find someone who does not automatically recognize Mickey as Disney, and vice versa.[100]

            In addition to secondary meaning, the use of a mark in commerce also entitles the trademark holder to protection, and using its characters in commerce is Disney’s forte.[101] Mickey’s 90th birthday marked the perfect occasion for Disney to reinforce its trademarks by collaborating with a variety of brands to churn out limited edition Mickey Mouse merchandise, most of which is catered to adults.[102] Beats by Dre released “Anniversary Edition” wireless headphones, Smeg is promoting a retro fridge, and luxury designer Marc Jacobs created an exclusive streetwear line—all with Mickey’s face prominently featured.[103] While there has always been Mickey Mouse merchandise for children, Disney has managed to keep the Big Cheese relevant for generations by appealing to adults, which simultaneously reinforces his recognizability as the face of Disney while constantly using him in commerce.[104]

            If Disney decides to exercise its trademark rights and file an infringement suit after Steamboat Willie’s copyright expires, the massive selection of Mickey merchandise will aid Disney in proving that a likelihood of confusion exists between the Mouse Marks and non-Disney Mickey Mouse products.[105] To prevail on a trademark infringement claim, Disney must prove that the defendant’s use of Mickey Mouse is likely to confuse or deceive consumers into believing the unauthorized products come from Disney.[106] This likelihood of confusion exists when the trademarks are “so similar and the goods for which they are used are so related that consumers would mistakenly believe they come from the same source.”[107] If a rival company produced a shirt with the Steamboat Willie version of Mickey Mouse on it, Disney may claim that because Mickey is synonymous with the company, consumers are likely to be confused or deceived into believing that Disney produces or sponsors the shirt.[108] This would provide an avenue for Disney to effectively prevent any future merchandise or derivative work with Mickey Mouse in it because trademark protection is indefinite.[109]

            While it is possible for Disney to attempt to invoke its trademark rights against anyone who tries to use the character in future works and products, it is unknown whether standing precedent will allow this.[110] In Dastar, the Supreme Court held a copyright holder that allowed its copyright to lapse without renewing it may not use trademark law to protect the work after its copyright has expired.[111] The Court explained that doing so would contradict the goal of copyright and the public domain by “creating a species of mutant copyright law.”[112] However, this rule only applies to works whose copyrights expired before trademark protection was claimed; overlapping copyright and trademark protection, as in Mickey Mouse’s case, is still uncharted territory for the Supreme Court.[113] Disney has succeeded in suing several different infringers over their use of the Mickey marks in the past, so there is a strong possibility the Mouse succeeds in obtaining eternal intellectual property protection.[114]


            Since his debut appearance in 1928, Mickey Mouse has been a staple in the lives of children everywhere, managing to stay relevant over the years while many older cartoon characters fade into obscurity. He has made his mark on animation and pop culture with Steamboat Willie and Fantasia; and he continued this trend with the Copyright Term Extension Act on U.S. copyright law, depriving the public domain of new works for twenty-three years.[115] Disney’s aggressive lobbying for the CTEA earned it the nickname “Mickey Mouse Protection Act,” allowing it profit from the character for an additional twenty years.[116] Despite its prior unrelenting push to extend copyright protection terms, Disney has pivoted to trademark law and the indefinite protection term it provides.[117] This strategy involving works with overlapping copyright and trademark protection has not been tested in court, so whether Mickey continues to evade public use remains to be seen.[118]

[1] Joseph Menn, Whose Mouse is it Anyway?, Los Angeles Times (Aug. 22, 2008), https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2008-aug-22-fi-mickey22-story.html.

[2] Elizabeth Segran, How Disney Grew Its $3 Billion Mickey Mouse Business—by Selling to Adults, Fast Co. (Apr. 1, 2019), https://www.fastcompany.com/90324660/how-disney-grew-its-3-billion-mickey-mouse-business-by-selling-to-adults?utm_source=postup&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Fast%20Company%20Daily&position=1&partner=newsletter&campaign_date=04012019.

[3] Sarah Sue Landau, Note, Of Mouse and Men: Will Mickey Mouse Live Forever?, 9 N.Y.U. J. Intell. Prop. & Ent. L. 249 (2020).

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 1: Copyright Basics (rev. Sep. 2021), https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf.

[10] U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 8.

[11] ARL Staff, Copyright Timeline: A History of Copyright in the United States, Association of Research Libraries (last accessed Feb. 27, 2022), https://www.arl.org/copyright-timeline/.

[12] Circular 1: Copyright Basics, supra note 9.

[13] What Rights do Copyright Owners Have?, Copyright Alliance (last accessed Feb. 27, 2022), https://copyrightalliance.org/faqs/what-rights-copyright-owners-have/.

[14] Id.

[15] U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 14: Copyright in Derivative Works and Compilations, (rev. July 2020), https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ14.pdf.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] What Rights do Copyright Owners Have?, Copyright Alliance, supra note 13.

[19] ARL Staff, Copyright Timeline: A History of Copyright in the United States, supra note 11.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Id.

[23] Id.

[24] Int’l Fed’n Libr. Ass’n Inst., The Public Domain—Why WIPO Should Care (2007), https://www.ifla.org/publications/the-public-domain-why-wipo-should-care-2007/.

[25] Id.

[26] Id.

[27] Id.

[28] Id.

[29] Zachary Crockett, How Mickey Mouse Evades the Public Domain, Priceonomics (Jan. 7, 2016), https://priceonomics.com/how-mickey-mouse-evades-the-public-domain/.

[30] Id.

[31] Id.

[32] Drew Taylor, The Incredible True Story of Disney’s Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Collider (Sep. 5, 2020), https://collider.com/disney-oswald-the-lucky-rabbit-history-explained/.

[33] Id.

[34] Crockett, supra note 29.

[35] Segran, supra note 2.

[36] Id.

[37] Id.

[38] Id.

[39] Crockett, supra note 29.

[40] Id.

[41] Id.

[42] Id.

[43] ARL Staff, Copyright Timeline: A History of Copyright in the United States, supra note 11.

[44] Id.

[45] Id.

[46] Crockett, supra note 29.

[47] Jacob D. Hartmann, Disney’s Fight to Keep Mickey, (Stigler Ctr. Case No. 3, 2017), https://research.chicagobooth.edu/-/media/research/stigler/pdfs/casestudies/cases/disney—nov-2017.pdf.

[48] Phyllis Schlafly, Why Disney has Clout with the Republican Congress, Eagle Forum (Nov. 25, 1998), https://eagleforum.org/column/1998/nov98/98-11-25.html.

[49] Crockett, supra note 29.

[50] Nick H. Kamboj, Disney’s Influence on the Enactment of the Copyright Term Extension Act (“CTEA”), as well as the CTEA’s Retrospective and Prospective Impact 75 (2018) (M.A. thesis, Harvard Extension School), https://dash.harvard.edu/handle/1/42004051.

[51] Schlafly, supra note 48.

[52] Id.

[53] Id.

[54] Id.

[55] Alan K. Ota, Disney in Washington: The Mouse that Roars, CNN: Congressional Quarterly (Aug. 10, 1998), https://edition.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1998/08/10/cq/disney.html.

[56] Schlafly, supra note 48.

[57] Laurie Richter, Reproductive Freedom: Striking a Fair Balance between Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Protections in Cartoon Characters, 21 St. Thomas L. Rev. 448, 451 (2009).

[58] Kamboj, supra note 50.

[59] Schlafly, supra note 48.

[60] Id.

[61] Id.

[62] Id.

[63] Crockett, supra note 29.

[64] Id.

[65] Jesse Kirkland, In 2024, Mickey Mouse will Finally Enter the Public Domain—Sort of, N.Y.U. J. Intell. Prop. & Ent. L. Blog (Dec. 4, 2019), https://blog.jipel.law.nyu.edu/2019/12/in-2024-mickey-mouse-will-finally-enter-the-public-domain-sort-of/.

[66] Id.

[67] Timothy B. Lee, Mickey Mouse will be Public Domain Soon—Here’s what that Means, Ars Technica (Jan. 1, 2019), https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2019/01/a-whole-years-worth-of-works-just-fell-into-the-public-domain/.

[68] Mickey Mouse Wore Green Shorts and Yellow Gloves in his Color Debut, D23.com (Feb. 25, 2014), https://d23.com/our-mouse-tro-takes-the-baton/.

[69] Kirkland, supra note 65.

[70] Id.

[71] Id.

[72] Brian Gabriel, The Public Domain is Working Again—No Thanks to Disney, Cartoon Brew (Jan. 29, 2019), https://www.cartoonbrew.com/law/the-public-domain-is-working-again-no-thanks-to-disney-169658.html.

[73] Adam Gidwitz, The Twisted History of Snow White, International Literacy Association (Oct. 24, 2013), https://www.literacyworldwide.org/blog/literacy-now/2013/10/24/the-twisted-history-of-snow-white.

[74] Rosaria Di Fiore, Disney and His Copyright: Will His Characters Live “Happily Ever After”?, Media Laws (Jan. 31, 2020), https://www.medialaws.eu/disney-and-his-copyright-will-his-characters-live-happily-ever-after/.

[75] Id.

[76] Gidwitz, supra note 73

[77] Alexandra Chan, Disney’s Domination of the Public Domain, Washington Square News (Sep. 30, 2019), https://nyunews.com/opinion/2019/10/01/disney-public-domain-copyright/.

[78] Derek Khana, 50 Disney Movies Based on the Public Domain, Forbes (Feb. 3, 2014), https://www.forbes.com/sites/derekkhanna/2014/02/03/50-disney-movies-based-on-the-public-domain/?sh=2d89933c329c.

[79] Elisha Fieldstadt, Highest-Grossing Movies of All Time, Ranked, CBS News (July 15, 2019), https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/the-top-grossing-movies-of-all-time-ranked/18/.

[80] Chan, supra note 77.

[81] Id.

[82] Id.

[83] Gabriel, supra note 72.

[84] Id.

[85] Id.

[86] Id.

[87] Id.

[88] Lee, supra note 67.

[89] Disney vs. The Public Domain: How Mickey Mouse Continues to Protect His Copyright, Lucentem Sports & Entertainment Law (Dec. 5, 2018), https://lucentem.com/2018/12/05/disney-vs-the-public-domain-how-mickey-mouse-continues-to-protect-his-copyright/.

[90] Stephen Carlisle, Mickey’s Headed to the Public Domain! But will He Go Quietly?, Nova Southeastern Univ. Off. Copyright Blog (Oct. 17, 2014), http://copyright.nova.edu/mickey-public-domain/#note-676-8.

[91] Id.

[92] 15 U.S.C. § 1127 (2012).

[93] Landau, supra note 3, at 258.

[94] Id.

[95] About Trademark Infringement, USPTO, https://www.uspto.gov/page/about-trademark-infringement (last accessed Feb. 14, 2022).

[96] Richter, supra note 57, at 456.

[97] Carlisle, supra note 90.

[98] Id.

[99] Marie Lewis, Disney’s Steamboat Willie and Why the Flipbook is Still Important, ACMI (Dec. 1, 2020), https://www.acmi.net.au/stories-and-ideas/disneys-steamboat-willie-and-why-the-flipbook-is-still-important/.

[100] Carlisle, supra note 90.

[101] Brooks Barnes, Mickey Turns 90, and the Disney Marketing Machine Celebrates, The New York Times (Nov. 2, 2018), https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/02/business/media/mickey-mouse-anniversary-90th.html.

[102] Id.

[103] Kim Soo-Jin, Happy Birthday, Mickey! Here’s How Luxury Brands are Celebrating the Iconic Disney Mouse, South China Morning Post (Nov. 18, 2018), https://www.scmp.com/magazines/style/news-trends/article/2173636/happy-birthday-mickey-heres-how-luxury-brands-are?module=perpetual_scroll_0&pgtype=article&campaign=2173636.

[104] Segran, supra note 2.

[105] Likelihood of Confusion, USPTO (last accessed Mar. 3, 2022), https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/search/likelihood-confusion.

[106] About Trademark Infringement, USPTO, https://www.uspto.gov/page/about-trademark-infringement (last accessed Mar. 4, 2022).

[107] Likelihood of Confusion, USPTO, supra note 105.

[108] Id.

[109] Id.

[110] Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., 539 U.S. 23, 34 (2003).

[111] Michael A. Forella III, Balancing Mickey Mouse and the Mutant Copyright: To Copyright a Trademark or to Trademark a Copyright, That is the Question, 24 Marq. Intell. Prop. L. Rev., 77, 88 (2020).

[112] Dastar, 539 U.S. at 34.

[113] Landau, supra note 3, at 268.

[114] Id. at 262.

[115] Id. at 251.

[116] Id. at 255.

[117] Carlisle, supra note 90.

[118] Landau, supra note 3, at 268.

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