Mickey Mouse NFTs Trend on OpenSea as Copyright Expires

For many, January 1st marked the beginning of the New Year and a chance to start fresh. But for some clever NFT creators paying attention to Walt Disney Company’s Intellectual Property (IP) rights, it was an opportunity to launch novel non-fungible token collections that have taken the NFT space by storm.

On the first day of 2024, three NFT collections based off Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse character hit the NFT market and quickly trended on OpenSea. The move was made possible because in the U.S., copyright can only be held for 95 years, and the NFTs were based off images from a short film called “Steamboat Willie” that debuted in 1928. When the copyright expired, the older version of Mickey Mouse entered the public domain, enabling people to do whatever they want it with them — like launch clever NFT collections.

The Mickey Mouse IP is the first IP of the character to enter the public domain, and NFT collectors welcomed it with open arms. The black and white NFTs are based on the debut appearance of Mickey Mouse designed and animated by Ub Iwerks with direction from Walt Disney at a time when Disney was still a small, relatively unknown company.

For now, the three new NFT collections are trending on OpenSea. ‘Steamboat Willie Public Domain 2024 currently holds the #3 trending spot, and at the time of writing, has done 622 ETH in total trading volume (or around $147.7 million). Impressively, it also entered the Top Ten (#6) for 24-hour sales volume on OpenSea, joining top collections like DeGods, Bored Ape Yacht Club, Azuki, and Pudgy Penguins.

A collection called ‘Steamboat Willie’ is currently in the #2 trending spot, and ‘Steamboat Willie’s Riverboat‘ is in third. Steamboat Willie is also in the #10 spot for Top Ten collections, according to 24-hour sales volume (238 ETH).

Although the copyright for this version of Mickey Mouse has expired, Disney still holds the rights to modern versions of the popular character. The company known for fiercely protecting their IPs warned that it will “continue to protect” the rights of modern versions of Mickey Mouse and other characters.

For the time being, its unclear who created the Mickey Mouse NFT collections. But as they dropped their collections just moments after the IP expired, it’s clear that it‘s someone or some company that has their fingers on the pulse of world-renowned IP rights.

Disney Continues to Wade Into Web3 Waters

The NFT collections currently trending on OpenSea were not created by Disney, and it’s doubtful Disney is too happy about some NFT creators making millions off its expired IP. That said, Disney has been quietly wading into Web3 waters for the past couple of years, and we’ve been here to cover the stories.

Here are the top headlines from Disney in Web3:

It may be a stretch to say Disney is bullish on Web3, as it made limited moves in the space in 2023. But it’s most recent partnership with Dapper Labs in November to debut an NFT marketplace is huge, and it shows that Disney is thinking about how to expand the use of their valuable IPs before they expire.

Furthermore, the recent success of the three Mickey Mouse NFT collections created from expired copyrights has likely got the company’s attention. At Rarity Sniper, we’ll be on the lookout to see how it all plays out.