Mickey Mouse  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Mickey Mouse is a comic animal cartoon character who has become an icon for The Walt Disney Company. He was created in 1928. The anthromorphic mouse has evolved from being simply a character in animated cartoons and comic strips to become one of the most recognizable symbols in the world.

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Legal issues

It is sometimes erroneously stated that the Mickey Mouse character is only copyrighted. In fact, the character, like all major Disney characters, is also trademarked, which lasts in perpetuity as long as it continues to be used commercially by its owner. So, whether or not a particular Disney cartoon goes into the public domain, the characters themselves may not be used as trademarks without authorization. However, within the United States, European Union and some other jurisdictions, the Copyright Term Extension Act (sometimes called the 'Mickey Mouse Protection Act' because of extensive lobbying by the Disney corporation) and similar legislation has ensured that works such as the early Mickey Mouse cartoons will remain under copyright until at least 2023. However, some copyright scholars argue that Disney's copyright on the earliest version of the character may be invalid due to ambiguity in the copyright notice for Steamboat Willie.

The Walt Disney Company has become well known for protecting its trademark on the Mickey Mouse character, whose likeness is closely associated with the company, with particular zeal. In 1989, Disney threatened legal action against three daycare centers in Florida for having Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters painted on their walls. The characters were removed, and rival Universal Studios replaced them with Universal cartoon characters.

Walt Disney Productions v. Air Pirates

In 1971, a group of underground cartoonists calling themselves the Air Pirates, after a group of villains from early Mickey Mouse films, produced a comic called Air Pirates Funnies. In the first issue, cartoonist Dan O'Neill depicted Mickey and Minnie Mouse engaging in explicit sexual behavior and consuming drugs. As O'Neill explained, "The air pirates were...some sort of bizarre concept to steal the air, pirate the air, steal the media...Since we were cartoonists, the logical thing was Disney."

Rather than change the appearance or name of the character, which O'Neill felt would dilute the parody, the mouse depicted in Air Pirates Funnies looks like and is named "Mickey Mouse". Disney sued for copyright infringement, and after a series of appeals, O'Neill eventually lost and was ordered to pay Disney $1.9 million. The outcome of the case remains controversial among free-speech advocates. New York Law School professor Edward Samuels said, "[The Air Pirates] set parody back twenty years."

Censorship

In 1930, The German Board of Film Censors prohibited showing a Mickey Mouse film because they felt the kepi-wearing mouse negatively portrayed the Germans and would "reawaken the latest anti-German feeling existing abroad since the War". A mid-1930s German newspaper article even stated:

"Mickey Mouse is the most miserable ideal ever revealed...Healthy emotions tell every independent young man and every honorable youth that the dirty and filth-covered vermin, the greatest bacteria carrier in the animal kingdom, cannot be the ideal type of animal...Away with Jewish brutalization of the people! Down with Mickey Mouse! Wear the Swastika Cross!"

Art Spiegelman used this quote on the opening page of the second volume of his graphic novel Maus.

The 1935 Romanian authorities banned Mickey Mouse films from cinemas after they feared that children would be "scared to see a ten-foot mouse in the movie theatre". In 1938, based on the Ministry of Popular Culture's recommendation that a reform was necessary "to raise children in the firm and imperialist spirit of the Fascist revolution," the Italian Government banned foreign children's literature except Mickey; Disney characters were exempted from the decree for the "acknowledged artistic merit" of Disney's work. Actually Mussolini's children were fond of Mickey Mouse, so they managed to delay his ban as long as possible. In 1942, after Italy declared war on the USA, fascism forced the Italian publishers to suddenly stop printing any Disney stories. Mickey's stories were replaced by the adventures of Tuffolino, a new human character created by Federico Pedrocchi (script) and Pier Lorenzo De Vita (art). After the downfall of Italy's fascist government, the ban was removed.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Mickey Mouse" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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