Expired Disney copyright sees "Steamboat Willie" NFT trend emerge


The earlier version of Walt Disney Company's Mickey Mouse mascot has surged to the number 1 trending non-fungible token (NFT) on the OpenSea marketplace, marking its entry into the public domain for the first time.

On January 1, a rendition of Mickey featured in the 1928 short film "Steamboat Willie" became publicly available as its copyright expired after nearly a century. "Steamboat Willie" was Mickey Mouse's first publicly distributed appearance, and United States law limits copyright to 95 years.

Following the copyright expiration, three NFT collections related to the vintage mascot secured the top three spots on OpenSea's 24-hour trending list. The "Steamboat Willie Public Domain 2024" collection claimed the number one spot with approximately $1.2 million in trading volume. Another collection, "Steamboat Willie," secured the second spot, while "Steamboat Willie’s Riverboat" ranked third.

In addition to the trending list, the "Steamboat Willie Public Domain 2024" collection also reached the sixth spot on OpenSea's 24-hour top charts, alongside popular collections like the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) and Pudgy Penguins. The "Steamboat Willie" collection also attained the eighth position on the same list.

While the copyright expiration applied to this specific version of the iconic mascot, Disney emphasized that modern iterations of Mickey Mouse remain unaffected by the expiration of "Steamboat Willie."

In a statement to CNN, a Disney spokesperson affirmed that the company will continue to protect its rights in the modern versions of Mickey Mouse and other copyrighted works. They expressed the commitment to safeguard against consumer confusion arising from unauthorized uses of Mickey and other iconic characters.