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Mickey Mouse -- Road Kill?

8/23/2008 10:57 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

Mickey MouseThe rodent has higher name recognition than Prez Bush -- 97%. It's like Oprah with a tail. The image alone is worth $3 bil to Disney, the company that sues when anyone even smells a rat. But Walt Disney could be losing it's claim to the creature.

The L.A. Times has published a really interesting story about Mick's copyright. Back in 1929, Disney released its first synchronized sound cartoon called "Steamboat Willie," featuring Mickey with longer arms and smaller ears than the 2.0 version.

On the title card to the toon, it says, "A Mickey Mouse sound cartoon. Steamboat Willie. A Walt Disney Comic By Ub Iwerks. Recorded by Power Cinephone System."

So here's the deal. There's buzz now that Disney may not own the copyright. It could be rightly held by the heirs of Ub Iwerks, the big honcho cartoonist at Disney at the time. Or it could be owned by Power Cinephone System. Apparently, it's not as clear as Walter would want you to think.

Disney without Mickey? Frickin' Goofy.


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If Mcdonalds got rid of Ronald Mcdonald and used this mouse instead, they'd take over the world!

2220 days ago


"A Walt Disney comic by... " That's means that it's Walt's. That Walt compensated Iwerks and PCS for their contribution. Case closed.... TMZ needs to pay attention to detail.

2220 days ago


If Sonny Bono hadn't stuck his nose into copyright law no one would own the mouse. Mickey was about to enter the public domain when Bono introduced the copyright extension act.

2220 days ago


I thought Mickey was scheduled to go public domain very soon. Isn't they why all their new kids stuff has Tinkerbell as a logo rather than Mickey?

2220 days ago


Gawker was right in their article recently about Harvey Levin driving TMZ into the ground. A story about the Mickey Mouse copyright? Seriously guys?

No wonder Gillian and Alan have both departed. Look at the crap you report on... but I guess Harvey is set in his editorial ways, which in turn is producing low staff morale. So sad. TMZ had a lot of potential.

According to Alexa, your website traffic is in the gutter too... way down from a few months ago.

AOL should sell of this entity while it still can. What really hurt you guys was the debut of TMZ in Sept. '07... that was a big mistake.

2220 days ago


actually, the 'toon was released a year earlier. sonny bono, as in sonny and cher. "i got you babe" lol

2220 days ago

the truth    

Disney is a evil they deserve to lose it ... they should use the devil as their logo They can't control everything ha ha F$#K U Disney WB kicks their ass any day Bugs Bunny rules Yeah man!

2220 days ago

Joe Mama    

interesting story tmz. 5/5 stars

2220 days ago


It's a ridiculous story. LA Times is reaching for something interested. Much like you guys!
They probably should have done their homework first. Hey - much like you guys!
I'm sure Disney will be just fine.

2220 days ago

american beauty    

"its", not "it's". Possessive is "its". "It's" is a contraction for "it is." C'mon TMZ, quit hiring illegal aliens and preschoolers!

2220 days ago

M Kelly    

The LA Times needed to be a little more thorough in their research. Walt conceptualized and drew Mickey Mouse on a train ride from NY to Hollywood on November 18, 1928. He had just lost his job - and the rights to his creation "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit" - at Universal Studios when the Mouse was "born".

2220 days ago

Grammar Nazi    

damn, american beauty beat me to it

2220 days ago

L.A. Hoxie    

TMZ--- you guys really should learn to read better before you post what is actually pointless dribble. No offense. However, nothing in that article is of any relevance unless you include the fact that the original title card for Steamboat Willie says "COPYRIGHT" somewhere on it. Which is does, but that you obviously missed was the point. Copyright laws say the copyright belongs to the name in immediate proximity to the copyright. And there were three names surrounding the copyright (including W. Disney). Also you seemed to miss the fact that the significance of "Powers Cinephone System" was that the title card said, "Cinephone Powers System" which is incorrect. So if they technically own the copyright, they do not exist.
Meaning: You quoted the wrong section. To you, legalities are nothing more than a Charlie Brown teacher.

2220 days ago


M Kelly, actually when Oswald was stolen, Disney and Ub locked themselves in a room for a night to see what they could come up with. By the morning, they had Mickey Mouse.

2219 days ago


Didn't the Simpsons do this one first, too?

2219 days ago
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