After 95 years, the copyright on Steamboat Willie, originally released in 1928, has finally passed into the public domain. The copyright on this work and many others createdin 1928 has officially lapsed, and the first drawings of Mickey and Minnie Mouse now belong to all of us.

Long-awaited works entering public domain this year include Disney’s “Steamboat Willie,” which features the first drawings of Mickey Mouse, and A.A. Milne’s second book entitled The House at Pooh Corner, which introduced the character of Tigger, as well as Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. (The characters of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Pete (who would later become Pegleg Pete, and then just Pete again) are still all trademarked by the Walt Disney Company, and all versions of these characters released later than 1928 are still copyrighted by them. )

Once a work enters the public domain it can legally be shared, performed, reused, repurposed or sampled without the creator granting permission or costing money.

Books by authors W.E.B. Du Bois, Agatha Christie, D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf and Robert Frost will now be public domain, among thousands of others. The list includes films Lights of New York and Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus.  

Musical compositions available include Broadway songs, jazz standards, early blues and pop music such as Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love).”

The works were first set to be in the U.S. public domain in 1984, but their term as copyrighted materials was extended until 2004. They then were supposed to go into the public domain, but Congress added another 20-year pause and extended these works’ copyright term to 95 years, according to the Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain.

I realize this bit of animation is now everywhere you look, thanks to the expiration of its copyright, but do take a moment and enjoy this delightful bit of fluff from a bygone age of innocence.

I grew up loving Steamboat Willie, and it was one of my great inspirations for wanting to become an animator and maker of entertainment, and is indirectly the reason that Mighty Aphrodite the Web Series exists.

— Gene Turnbow, Founder and Station Manager of


Gene Turnbow
Gene Turnbow

President of Krypton Media Group, Inc., radio personality and station manager of Part writer, part animator, part musician, part illustrator, part programmer, part entrepreneur – all geek.