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Mickey Mouse set to enter unrestricted free agency as 95-year contract with Disney expires

Mickey Mouse, Disney, LeBron James, Stephen Curry

Mickey Mouse and the Disney brand are all but tied at the hip at this point. The iconic cartoon character has been attached to the multimedia conglomerate ever since it’s inception in the 1920s. He’s been a staple of the brand for so long now at this point.

In a few years’ time, though, that will all change. The Guardian pointed out that Mickey Mouse’ copyright with Disney expires in 2024. What that means is that the iconic character will now be available in the public domain for everyone to use. Any animator, director, or creative personnel can use Mickey Mouse’ likeness and not get in trouble with Disney.

To put it in sports terms, Mickey Mouse will essentially become a free agent by the year 2024. Unlike traditional free agency, though, the Mouse will likely not be picked up by another brand exclusively. In the Guardian article, Daniel Mayeda of the UCLA College of Law also pointed out that Disney can still pursue legal action depending on how the character is used.

“You can use the Mickey Mouse character as it was originally created to create your own Mickey Mouse stories or stories with this character. But if you do so in a way that people will think of Disney… then in theory, Disney could say you violated my copyright.”

If you’re looking for an idea on what could happen to Mickey Mouse after 2024, you can take a look at another Disney character that entered the public domain. Winnie the Pooh entered the public domain earlier this year, and creatives immediately jumped on the opportunity to use the character. In particular, the Bear was the main character of a horror film loosely based on Pooh’s original story.