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“Steamboat Willie” came under public domain recently in the US. And as far as I understand, it went under public domain a few years ago in Canada. Based off of the research I’ve done, a Canada user faces similar restrictions as that of an US user. They cannot use Mickey as a trademark for anything that Disney is in the industry for (or at least it’s very risky), and they cannot use Mickey to pass off their own work as a Disney (or Disney-related) product. They also both are limited to the “Steamboat Willie” version of Mickey.

I want to know if I missed anything or if I’m completely wrong.

Additionally, I couldn’t find out if the music in “Steamboat Willie” went under public domain anywhere.

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  • At the time that the Steamboat Willie music was published, music was governed by a set of laws completely separate and distinct from copyright law. Intellectual property rights in music were merged into copyright law in the U.S. in 1978 and in Canada around the same time, although not at exactly the same time. Music IP protection was never as uniform as copyright law was across national borders (or between U.S. states) prior to its merger with copyright law, so this is the more interesting part of your question, which also extends to Canada's choice of law rules for music IP pre-merger.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 5 at 2:45
  • @ohwilleke Thanks for the detail. Are there any retroactive laws (Canadian or American) that make the music copyright of past works clear especially for my scenario? Jan 5 at 2:47
  • "Are there any retroactive laws (Canadian or American) that make the music copyright of past works clear especially for my scenario?" No. It is quite complicated. There is a very good chance it went into the public domain before the images and dialog did. But the analysis is quite involved and tricky. And it wasn't just duration that varied, it was the nature of the rights protected in the music.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 5 at 2:49
  • @ohwilleke I see. Then I’m guessing not using the audio would actually be safer than using the audio for Steamboat Willie. It’s alright when I consider that there’s barely any dialogue in the cartoon. Jan 5 at 2:51
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    @ohwilleke Makes sense. Back to the main question though, am I right about the restrictions on using Steamboat Willie (or at least the visuals) and Mickey Mouse? Jan 5 at 2:59

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You can copy as much as you want so long as you don’t violate Disney’s trademarks

Copyright law is now irrelevant. However, trademark law is still very relevant and will be as long as Disney keeps using Micky Mouse as a trademark (and for an ill-defined number of years after they stop).

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