There are many reasons why the start of the year is a time many writers look forward to. There is, of course, the thrill of a new journal (for the first time I have begun using a Hobonichi and am already enchanted as so many others are by the crackle of the Tomoe River paper). But for the fan fictioneers among us, and any who have always longed to give our own twist to the classics, January 1st matters because it is the date when a new tranche of source material enters the public domain including… Mickey Mouse.
And this year sees a very special public domain release indeed. Alongside the Beatles, Disney is famous as the most notoriously litigious protector of intellectual property. So much so that they lobbied (successfully) to have the protection afforded by the Copyright Act extended by 20 years (to 95 years after publication), in what has become known as “The Mickey Mouse Protection Act.” That 95 year term has finally run out on Disney’s breakout work, Steamboat Willie. Which means Mickey Mouse and companions, as and only as they appear in Steamboat Willie, can now be (and already are) the subject of creative freedom.
There is another release into the public domain that will inevitably be as popular. Horror and indie culture aficionados among you will no doubt be aware of the 2022 sleeper hit Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey. The hurriedly-released cash-in was made possible when 1926’s Winnie the Pooh entered the public domain. One much-loved character was notably absent from the slasher-comedy. That’s because Tigger didn’t make a first appearance until 1928’s The House at Pooh Corner. Which means the excitable feline is now fair game (though not, unlike Mickey Mouse, the Disney version thereof).
Also released into the public domain is D H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover. And I’ll leave it there, while your imaginations are still turning all of that over.