MANIFESTO MANIFESTO MANIFESTO
MSCHF cannot legally make our own artwork of Mickey Mouse today in 2021. Mickey Mouse’s copyright is owned by Disney and cannot be freely reproduced without their permission.
The original span of U.S. copyright protection was 14 years. Through a tremendous amount of gradual creep, it is now 95 years from publication for a work made by a corporate entity, due to a piece of 1998 legislation that was derisively referred to as the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act.” Disney is a true multinational behemoth, able to change national laws to suit the interests of a cartoon mouse.
The copyright on the earliest iteration of Mickey Mouse (from Steamboat Willie) is due to expire in 2024. At that point Mickey will enter the public domain and MSCHF, and anyone else who so desires, can make their own works using the Steamboat Willie version of Mickey Mouse without infringing Disney’s copyright.
Fair Use is a sick joke when one side is a rabidly litigious $120Bn+ corporation.
We can, however, have the idea today in 2021 to make a Mickey Mouse artwork in 2024.
And because it is 2021–and conceptual art is at this point more history than novelty–we are well past the idea that the physical manifestation of an artwork need exist. The idea is the art. You can pay Maurizio Cattelan $120K for instructions on how to tape a banana to the wall; you can buy the idea today of an unlicensed Mickey that will exist in the future.
Within this framework, MSCHF has made the first public domain Mickey Mouse artwork, three years early.
Disney is a massive all-swallowing conglomerate, with a desire for both industry dominance and cultural hegemony. It is ever-growing, all-encompassing, creatively risk-averse, and society-blandening. We must leap and at the chance to take back even the scant morsels available to us. At the slightest chance we must eat them alive.