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Mickey Mouse and Character(is)ing Copyright – “Character Protection” in UK Copyright Law?

Ali S Algazlan, N. (2022). Mickey Mouse and Character(is)ing Copyright – “Character Protection” in UK Copyright Law? (City Law School Research Paper 2022/13). London, UK: City Law School.


Fictional characters under UK copyright law currently face complex issues and uncertainties. As 2024 is quickly approaching, Disney’s Steamboat Willie will technically fall out of copyright. This could result in the public using the character at no cost. However, Disney could and most likely will argue that only the first version of Mickey Mouse can be used freely. This means that later versions are still protected even if they are the same character with minor updates. This dissertation examines the UK and US copyright laws on characters and aims to identify whether fictional characters are protected under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Based on the limited resources for UK copyright and fictional characters, this article asks: When should fictional characters like Mickey Mouse get copyright protection in the UK and what should the scope of protection be?

By examining the US approach towards this issue and its multiple tests, it is recommended that UK statutory provision should change and incorporate fictional characters under Artistic and Literary works. On this basis, this article recommends the ‘distinct delineated’ and ‘story being told’ tests. The statutory provision will also provide a strict test for characters with multiple versions. This is to restrict extra protection and provide legal certainty.

Publication Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Additional Information: Copyright, the authors, 2022.
Publisher Keywords: Copyright, Disney, Fictional Characters, Law
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
K Law
K Law > KD England and Wales
Departments: The City Law School > Academic Programmes
The City Law School > CLS Working Paper Series
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