Free Willie Fuh All!
Tiny confession 👀 When we first saw the Steamboat Willie story, we were totally stoked about kicking off the New Year with a BUZZworthy opinion piece to set the tone for the year. But we were also on vacay so… we kinda stick. But look how, 2 weeks later, no one else picked it up so here we are!
Just in case you missed it, on January 1st the copyright expired for one of Walt Disney’s first animation films featuring Mickey Mouse, Steamboat Willie. It was originally due to expire in 1983 but was extended to 1997 and again to 2024, for a total of 95 years. Other iconic characters, including Pluto and Donald Duck, are set to enter the public domain unless Disney goes to US Congress for an extension.
Apparently, this copyright issue is a pretty big deal in the US and UK with people actively tracking copyright expiration for characters, videos, music and more. Which begs the question: how invested are we in copyright here? We were all up in arms about whether or not Japan owned the rights to our national instrument and then that died down. And we claim to be the meme gurus, but is anyone copyrighting those? Can we? And what’s the situation with Nagib Elias Guy, the Chubby Man and Peppy the Penguin… Is it that we’ll soon be seeing them used freely, much like how people keep TikToking the Island Finance jingle?
We don’t really have the answers and, at the AI Symposium we attended least year, we learned that there really aren’t any — as yet. So tell us, what piece of Trini creativity would you be most excited to see join the copyright free ranks of Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh?