Mickey Mouse Enters Public Domain – What It Means For Gaming in 2024

As Mickey Mouse enters public domain after almost a century, the door is wide open for game developers to use this beloved character.

mickey mouse public domain and games 2024 featured image

Image via Nightmare Forge Games

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After almost a century locked away under Disney exclusivity, a specific version of Mickey Mouse has finally entered the public domain. Disney’s copyright over the first version of Mickey expired in early January, and developers couldn’t wait a full 24 hours before publishing videos of the famed rodent in their upcoming titles.

Disney’s most iconic character has finally entered the public domain. This means Mickey Mouse is free for anyone to use in their product, be it a game, TV show, or movie. While this was news to many on the day it was announced by dozens of news outlets, some people had been eagerly awaiting their chance to put a spin on Disney’s golden boy for weeks. There’s no telling what will make it to release, but this copyright expiration is sure to rock the games industry regardless.

Related: The 5 Best Games Starring Mickey Mouse, Ranked

What Does Mickey Mouse Being Public Domain Mean for the Games Industry?

mickey mouse shadow in infestation 88
Image via Nightmare Forge Games

Mickey Mouse being available in the public domain means his likeness, specifically, the versions of Mickey and Minnie from the Steamboat Willie cartoon, can be used in other works without cost to the creators.

For example, on the day the copyright expired, a trailer for a movie titled Mickey’s Mouse Trap debuted. It contains the Steamboat Willie version of Mickey Mouse and even has a comic book of the cartoon, as well as the original animated film playing within the movie. This wouldn’t previously have been possible without approval from Disney and a hefty fee. That’s if the company would even have allowed it.

Revealed the same day as the copyright expired, Infestation 88 is a co-op horror game in which players take on the role of exterminators. Rodents have been spreading a contagion, and players must seek it out and remove it. However, one rodent, in particular, seems to be leading the pack, and it looks pretty familiar.

The record for the fastest game to use Mickey Mouse after the copyright expired goes to Inverse Ninjas VS. The Public Domain. A mere twelve hours is all it took for Steamboat Mickey to appear as a character in an indie game.

This is only the start, though. The website TechDirt started the year off by hosting another one of its public domain game jams. During these game jams, participants must submit games that use copyrighted works that have had their copyright expire at the start of the year. It started with one based on 1923, and in 2024, the game jam looks at 1928. We’re just over 24 hours in, and there’s already a game with Mickey Mouse in as a submission called Wackomedia’s Steamboat Willie Live.

Previously, Mickey Mouse could only appear in officially licensed games such as Disney Speedstorm or the Lorcana TCG. He could pop up anywhere now, completely altering how the character is perceived, especially to future generations who may never remember a time when Mickey Mouse was a character exclusive to Disney.

Every Public Domain Mickey Mouse Game We Know About

Mickey Mouse games
Images via Disney

In the table below, we’ve listed every game using Mickey Mouse that’s been announced or released since the copyright expired. As far as we’re aware, all of these are unofficial and are only able to use the character because there’s no copyright on this version.

Game NameWhat it’s About
characters in infestation 88
Infestation 88
Available on Steam
Infestation 88 is a co-op horror game where players must clear an infestation from various locations. The infestation is spread by rats, which vary in size and deadliness, which is why players need to be careful.
wackomedias steamboat willie live convesation screen
Wackomedia’s Steamboat Willie Live!
Available on Itch.io
In Wackomedia’s Steamboat Willie Live! Players enjoy a movie with the most iconic Micky Mouse and can have a chat with him at the same time.
inverse ninjas vs the public domain menu with mickey mouse
Inverse Ninjas VS. The Public Domain
Available on Steam
Inverse Ninjas VS. The Public Domain is a wave-based top-down shooter where players take on the role of iconic characters as their copyright expires and they become part of the public domain.

When Did Disney’s Mickey Mouse Copyright Expire?

Image via Disney

Disney’s copyright for Mickey Mouse as a character expired on January 1, 2024. It was first registered in 1928 alongside the Steamboat Willie cartoon that kicked off the character’s rise to fame. Needless to say, Mickey Mouse could become known for so much more now anyone can use him in their works. However, the caveat here is that this only applies to the Steamboat versions of Mickey and Minnie. Other iterations still have years of copyright to run.

Interestingly, the copyright first expired in 1984, but the US Congress extended it for 20 years. Then, at the next deadline in 2024, it was extended for another 20, sparking the copyright law known as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act. However, for one reason or another, an extension was not granted in 2024, though we have no idea if Disney even bought one.