Mickey and Minnie Mouse aren’t the only notable characters or works that lost their copyright protection on Jan. 1, known as “Public Domain Day.” J. M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan” play is now up for creative adaptations, and the iconic character of Tigger joins his pal Winnie the Pooh in the world of public domain since his debut appearance in the 1928 book “The House at Pooh Corner.”
These characters and their likeness are now free to be used by artists, writers and filmmakers in their artwork, books or films without the fear of legal action since copyright protections expire after 95 years in the U.S.
Originally, works published in 1928 were supposed to enter public domain in 1984, but after a term extension followed by lobbying efforts of the Walt Disney Co. and other copyright holders, Congress passed the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act and added more years of protection, according to Duke Law.
When a work enters public domain, it can lead to unexpected variations of beloved material — sometimes humorous, and other times horrifying.
We already saw this happen last year with Winnie the Pooh's public domain launch when the honey-loving teddy bear was transformed into a blood-lusting feral horror villain in the micro-budget film "Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey.” The limited-release movie received a 3% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, by the way.
And it’s already happening again. Trailers for a new slasher film featuring the 1928 version of Mickey Mouse and a horror video game were both released on Jan. 1, surely set to ruin childhood memories worldwide.
The trailer for “Mickey's Mouse Trap” shows a surprise birthday party in an arcade takes a turn for the worse when the birthday girl and partygoers are met with a knife-wielding murderer in a Mickey costume.
“Infestation 88,” a video game produced by Nightmare Forge Games, is a survival horror game in which an outbreak of rodents turns into something more sinister, based on the trailer.
The release dates for both projects are not known at this time.
There’s a handful of other works that entered public domain this year and are worth noting: Agatha Christie’s “The Mystery of the Blue Train,” Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando” and Claude McKay’s “Home to Harlem”; Charlie Chaplin’s film “The Circus”; songs “I Wanna Be Loved by You” from the musical “Good Boy” and Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love)” from the musical “Paris”; and recordings like “Lawdy, Lawdy Blues” from famed blues singer Ida Cox and “Charleston” by composer James P. Johnson, which is partly credited for the origin of the Charleston dance.
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