1920s Mickey May Be Public Domain

Ex-researcher, law student raise questions that anger Disney lawyers
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 23, 2008 7:44 PM CDT
A vintage Disney film poster.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – A trio of unlikely challengers has angered Walt Disney Co. by arguing that an early version of Mickey Mouse is no longer copyright-protected, the Los Angeles Times reports. Disney has won a $500,000 lawsuit against ex-employee Gregory Brown, who uncovered old film credits that he says invalidate Disney's claim to a 1920s version of Mickey. A law student later took up Brown's case in a class paper.

Contacted by a Georgetown scholar, Disney's lawyers reacted to the paper with a curt reply: Print that and we'll sue. The professor did publish, but garnered little attention. If Disney loses exclusive rights to Mickey—estimated to be worth $3 billion—it would not be the company's first copyright defeat. It lost Oswald the Lucky Rabbit decades ago, and created another character in a comeback bid: Mickey Mouse.