Bloomberg Law
May 18, 2022, 8:45 AM

‘Steamboat Willie,’ Josh Hawley, and Copyright Terms: Explained

Riddhi Setty
Riddhi Setty

Mickey Mouse’s next big adventure would be a journey into the public domain if Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) gets his way.

The “Copyright Clause Restoration Act” (S. 4178) would reset copyright terms to a maximum of 56 years, with retroactive effect for copyright owners that meet certain conditions, including The Walt Disney Co. That would end protection for the original 1928 “Steamboat Willie” depiction of the world’s most famous rodent, potentially allowing anybody to use it without Disney’s permission.

This legislation is apparently Hawley’s reaction to Disney’s opposition to Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” law—also called the “Don’t ...

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