If you think of Winnie the Pooh you think Disney, if you think Mickey Mouse you definitely think Disney. However the copyright protection for these characters and others could be lost due to copyright laws.
According to an article on USA Today, Winnie the Pooh and friends Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga and Owl who are all characters from the legendary books by A.A.Milne are scheduled to enter the public domain this year based on "The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 " which protects a company's copyright for 95 years from first publication or 120 years after its creation, whichever ends sooner. As the book was first published in 1926, time is now up.
Winnie the Pooh has always been extremely protifable for Disney and some may find this surprising but the report states that "While estimates vary, some believe that Disney currently generates annual revenue of between $3 billion and $6 billion from Pooh and friends."
Losing the copyright protection of these cherished characters doesn't mean that Disney can't continue to use the Winnie the Pooh characters that it has created but it does mean that as of 2022 other companies can use:
"A.A. Milne’s original Winnie-the-Pooh stories as inspiration, adapting the fictional bear for new projects or original creative works. The original line drawings from the book, penned by E.H. Shepard, will also be fair game". USA Today
Disney who originally acquired the rights to the Winnie-the-Pooh books and their characters back in 1961 can:
"go after anyone that tries to use Disney’s version of Winnie the Pooh and the trademarked characters it created based on Milne’s stories. The House of Mouse also maintains the rights to Milne’s books and characters created after 1926, including Tigger, who first appeared in 1928."
So on a positive note, Disney will still have the rights to Disney's version of Winnie the Pooh and will maintain those characters created after 1926 including Tigger.
The copyright protection on Steamboat Willie which was the first short of Mickey Mouse is also due to expire in the next couple of years. It will be interesting to see how Disney goes about trying to maintain copyright protection for Steamboat Willie and to see if they are successful.
Let us know your thoughts on whether you think Disney should be able to keep the rights to Winnie the Pooh or whether you think it is about time that other companies have the chance to be able to use these legendary characters to create new and exciting attractions and projects. Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. The 'Hundred Acre wood' appears to now be open for others to walk in...