It's not just Mickey: 10 characters and cultural works losing some copyright protection, from Peter Pan to Charlie Chaplin

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  • The original Mickey Mouse entered the public domain after Disney's copyright on the image expired.

  • A trove of other cultural works published in 1928 also are losing copyright protection.

  • Here are 10 notable songs, books, and other works and what they stood for.

Creators rejoice: The original Mickey Mouse is now in the public domain after Disney's copyright on the image expired on January 1.

The change only applies to the version of Mickey from the 1928 animated short "Steamboat Willie" and not his more modern likenesses, which are still protected by copyright law.

Disney's most famous mascot may be the best known, but isn't the only artistic work whose copyright expires this year, meaning the work can be freely copied, shared, and built on.

Thousands of classic songs, books, and other artistic works published in 1928 are entering the public domain after their 95-year term expires, including films by comedy giants Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, D.H. Lawrence's "Lady Chatterley's Lover" and Cole Porter's "Let's Do It."

Jennifer Jenkins, director of Duke's Center for the Study of the Public Domain, catalogs the expiring copyrights on what's come to be known as Public Domain Day. She says the works entering the public domain this year represent a snapshot of the cultural struggles of the time, some of which are still relevant today, from books that were banned for obscenity to works that explored gender and sexuality.

"We celebrate the emergence of thousands of works into the public domain, where everyone can build on them, remake them, present new versions of them, or use them for education or simply enjoyment," she wrote.

Here are some of the famous characters and creative works that enter the public domain in 2024:

Mickey Mouse

side-by-side of Steamboat Willie Mickey cartoon and modern-day Mickey mascot
"Steamboat Willie" Mickey Mouse (left) and modern-day Mickey (right).LMPC, picture alliance/Getty Images

Disney has spent decades lobbying to extend the length of the copyright. The "Steamboat Willie" Mickey Mouse looks a lot different from the modern versions, which remain under copyright protection.


Scene from Disney Channel's "Doc McStuffins"
A scene from Disney Channel's "Doc McStuffins."Disney Junior via Getty Images

A. A. Milne's House at Pooh Corner, which introduced the bouncy Tigger character, follows the copyright expiration in 2022 of Milne's 1926 book, "Winnie-the-Pooh," which inspired a slasher movie, "Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey."

Peter Pan

Peter Pan cartoon
Peter Pan and his shadow. YouTube / Screenshot

J. M. Barrie's play "Peter Pan; or the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up" was a 1904 play but not published for copyright purposes until 1928.

Charlie Chaplin's "The Circus"

A scene from "The Circus" starring Charlie Chaplin.
A scene from "The Circus" starring Charlie Chaplin.Bettmann via Getty Images

Chaplin wrote, produced, and starred in this silent romantic comedy.

D.H. Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”

Emma Corrin in Netflix's new adaptation of "Lady Chatterley’s Lover."
Emma Corrin in Netflix's new adaptation of "Lady Chatterley’s Lover."Netflix

"Lady Chatterley's Lover" was banned around the world and infamous for its depictions of sex, use of four-letter words, and depictions of female pleasure.

“Animal Crackers” starring the Marx Brothers

Marx Brothers
Four of the five Marx brothers, from left, Chico, Groucho, Harpo and Zeppo, pose in 1930.AP Photo

"Animal Crackers" was a musical that was later turned into a 1930 film featuring some of Groucho's best known lines like "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don't know."

Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do it”

Cole Porter
A Cole Porter hit is now in the public domain. Frances McLaughlin-Gill/Condé Nast/Getty Images

The Cole Porter hit is filled with double entendres and daring for touching on the topic of sex.

“Mack the Knife”

Louis Armstrong performing in Baltimore.
Louis Armstrong famously recorded "The Threepenny Opera."Bettmann via Getty Images

The song was composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht for "The Threepenny Opera" and famously recorded by Louis Armstrong and Bobby Darrin.

Buster Keaton’s “The Cameraman”

Actor and director Buster Keaton poses for a portrait on the set of his MGM film "The Cameraman"
Actor and director Buster Keaton poses for a portrait on the set of his MGM film "The Cameraman"Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Keaton directed and starred in this romantic comedy about a man who tries to become a cameraman to get close to the woman he falls for.

Erich Maria Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front”

Felix Kammerer in "All Quiet on the Western Front."
Felix Kammerer in "All Quiet on the Western Front."Netflix

The World War I novel offers a close-up look at the traumas of war.

Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando”

Virginia Woolf
One of Virginia Woolf's most popular novels was Orlando. George C. Beresford via Getty Images

One of Woolf's most popular novels, "Orlando," about a nobleman who transforms into a woman and lives for hundreds of years, has been the subject of women's and gender studies.

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