Walt Disney's 1928 copyright for Steamboat Willie is set to expire in three years, and MSCHF, a disruptive art collective, has positioned itself to take advantage of that expiration. Media + Entertainment Group co-chair James Sammataro recently discussed the situation with The Hollywood Reporter. The collective issued a "Famous Mouse" Manifesto to detail their reasoning.
According to a 2020 New York Times article, "MSCHF has raised at least $11.5 million in outside investments since the fall of 2019." That profit can be attributed to the regular sale of "viral prank merchandise" that gains significant attention in a relatively short timeframe. The company's most recent product, referred to as the "Satan Shoe," a custom pair of Nike Air Max 97s containing a single drop of human blood, sparked a lawsuit from Nike. Many expect a Disney-led suit will follow the sale of the newly announced piece titled the "X Famous Mouse."
The following is an excerpt from The Hollywood Reporter's coverage:
Which raises the question: Is this Mickey Mouse-ish thing, you know, legal?
"We believe so on the basis of research and expert advice," MSCHF says in its FAQ.
If all that sounds not entirely certain, an experienced copyright attorney contacted by The Hollywood Reporter predicted things could get contentious. "It's difficult to foresee a scenario where [art] of a not-yet-in-the-public-domain work would not give rise to a prospective claim," lawyer James Sammataro said. "Disney can credibly argue that the inchoate license devalues the current value of its licensing rights by diverting up would-be licensees."
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- [The Hollywood Reporter] 'Satan Shoes' Outfit Launches Mickey Mouse Art to Mock Disney's Expiring Copyright
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