Disney Culture War: Sen.’s Revenge Law Targets Mickey Mouse Copyright

If the legislation passes, the Mouse House would lose the copyright to Mickey Mouse himself, making the rodent public domain

Disney could immediately lose its copyright for Mickey Mouse himself if a bill proposed by Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) shortening the duration of ownership is passed.

Hawley on Tuesday “proposed legislation that limits copyright protection to 56 years,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. The law would retroactively apply to existing copyrights.

Disney’s Mickey Mouse was created in 1928 when he appeared in the cartoon Steamboat Willie, and the character fell under the Copyright Act of 1909. Under that law, Disney had the copyright for 56 years, and its ownership of the gloved vermin was set to run out in 1984.

The Mickey Mouse copyright is currently set to fall into the public domain in 2024, however, due to past efforts by politician Friends of Mouse House.

Late Republican California congressman Sonny Bono rewrote the copyright laws in 1998 with the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, also known as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act. The act extended copyright terms in the U.S. to last for the life of the author plus 50 years, or 75 years for a corporate work.

Disney’s vocal opposition to Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill has led to a cascading culture war between conservatives and Disney and has resulted in revenge legislation such as Hawley’s bill. The Parental Rights in Education Bill, nicknamed “Don’t Say Gay” by its opponents, limits the discussion on sexual orientation for students in kindergarten through third grade.

Last week, Texas Rep. Troy Nehls wrote a letter to both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and asked that the no-fly-zones over both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

DeSantis, meanwhile, pushed a bill through the Florida state Senate eliminating the independent tax district, called the Reedy Creek Improvement District, that Disney World sits on and self-governs. The situation is at a standstill due to $1 billion outstanding bond debt the state would have to pay if Disney loses its deal.

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