Copyright Term Extension Act, Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, or The Mickey Mouse Act – all of these acts is the same thing.
The Act stipulates that the works (such as the trademark Mickey Mouse) shall be protected during the author’s lifetime plus an additional 70 years after his or her death. After pressure from Hollywood, The Act was created in order to protect a company’s revenue earned from productions from the early 1900s. However, classic novels and music works from the 1800s would still be open for the public to use.
The reason why the Act is called the Mickey Mouse Act is because Mickey Mouse actually helped to change the terms of the copyright laws. Walt Disney, a man we all knows and loves (or at least I do) – created Mickey Mouse in 1928. In 1976, as I discussed in an earlier blog post from this morning, the copyright law changed in order to protect the creator of intellectual property, and here, the individual authors were granted protection for their works during their entire life plus an additional 50 years (this was already the norm in Europe). Also, for works created by corporations, the 1976 legislation granted a retroactive extension for works published before this new system took place. This meant that now, Mickey Mouse was protected in to the year of 2003, and that all other intellectual work that was published before 1922 or earlier were placed in the public domain. In 1998, the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act changed the duration, and now the copyright was extended until “the life of the author plus 70 years”. So now, Mickey Mouse’s copyright protection is extended until 2023.
So, we will most likely see a change in the Act again closer to the expiration year…