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Public Domain and Copyright

By: Jaime Israel Davila Gomez, Attorney.

When it comes to copyright, the term “public domain” refers to works that, due to the passage of time and applicable laws, have lost their protection and no longer belong exclusively to an individual or company. In this case, such works can be used and exploited by everyone, always acknowledging the original author or creator.

In the last 10 years, several popular works have entered the public domain. For example, we have Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince” (2015) and Alan Alexander Milne’s “Winnie-the-Pooh” (2022). We can also mention the character Mickey Mouse (from the short film “Steamboat Willie”), which will enter the public domain in 2024.

With regard to the mentioned examples, there are already various works that exploit the original characters. In these cases, it is important to consider that it is the original works that enter the public domain. For example, in the case of “The Little Prince,” the version that can be exploited is the one written in French by the author, but works created by others (with authorization from the original author when the rights still existed or without authorization when it was already in the public domain) cannot be exploited.

In the case of “Winnie-the-Pooh,” it is important to note that it is Milne’s original work that entered the public domain. This means that none of the works created by Disney will be freely exploitable in 2022. It is also important to consider that although Disney will not have control over the copyright of derivative elements from the original story (such as the character’s name), they do have numerous trademark registrations worldwide that will allow them to continue with protection. Therefore, any use intended for the character would also need to take this into account.


For more information about a specific case, or topic, or to book a consultation, visit Davila y Asociados at José Ma. Larroque 1325, Nueva, 21100 Mexicali, B.C., México, call them at +52 686 555 7014 or email: israel@despachodavila.com.mx


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