The Los Angeles Times takes a look at the copyright issues surrounding the cartoon Steamboat Willie and Mickey Mouse, in particular recent allegations of an “imprecision” in copyright claims dating back to the character’s first appearance:
Film credits from the 1920s revealed imprecision in copyright claims that some experts say could invalidate Disney’s long-held copyright, though a Disney lawyer dismissed that idea as “frivolous.”
So does this mean I can finally publish my Steamboat Willie II: Electric Bugaloo comic? Not so fast, says one legal expert:
No one expects Disney, which declined interview requests, to surrender Mickey without an all-out legal brawl. And the cost of what has been an academic exercise would soar if moved into a federal courtroom.
“Law and equity might line up on the side of forfeiture,” said Michael J. Madison, associate dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. But “Disney has enough ammunition on its side to dissuade all but the most well-financed competitor, or any but the most committed public-interest advocates, from challenging Mickey.”
Also keep in mind that there’s a difference between copyright and trademark … Jeff Trexler talked a little bit about the differences between the two when discussing the Siegel/Superman case here. You can read the government’s definitions of both, as well as patents, here.