A copyright law established in 1998 is about to affect a childhood treasure that has existed since 1926.
According to an article in USA Today, the legendary characters Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga and Owl will enter the public domain and not be under Disney’s copyright protection.
Disney acquired the copyrights to the Winnie the Pooh books and its characters in 1961.
The characters first appeared in AA Milne’s books in 1926, and under the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 a company’s copyright is protected for 95 years after its first publication.
Here is what this development means:
Starting this year, companies other than Disney can use the Winnie the Pooh stories and adapt it for new projects or creative works. The original line drawings in the book will also be “fair,” according to USA Today.
Disney still owns the copyright to its version of Winnie the Pooh and the characters it created from Milne’s original stories. This means Disney will still own the rights to the “Tigger” character, who first appeared in 1928.
Make no mistake, Winnie the Pooh remains a major cash cow for Disney. The brand generates between $3 billion and $6 billion in revenue per year, according to the article.
The article also said that Disney might try to extend the copyright to Winnie the Pooh, but legal experts say that would be a “longshot”.
It could also be the start of copyright issues for Disney and its iconic characters.
In two years, copyright protections are due to expire for the first version of Mickey Mouse, “Steamboat Willie,” released in 1928.