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After entering the public domain, Mickey Mouse turns into a homicidal maniac


It didn't take long to turn Mickey Mouse into a homicidal maniac. An early version of the famous cartoon character entered the public domain on Monday, and already there's a trailer out for a new horror movie called "Mickey's Mouse Trap."


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) There's blood all over the jungle gym.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Tina, turn around. Please...


Even the world's most famous mouse is not safe from an expired copyright. Timothy Lee is a journalist who's written about copyrights and public domain. He says copyright law is actually spelled out in the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8.

TIMOTHY LEE: Congress shall have the power to promote the progress of science and the useful arts by securing to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their writings and discoveries.

FADEL: The Constitution's authors specified the copyright should last for 28 years, but that law was extended and revised several times in the last century.

MARTÍNEZ: Which is why you're only recently starting to see some famous old characters with brand-new lives. Netflix, for example, puts Sherlock Holmes and his sister into a new series.


MILLIE BOBBY BROWN: (As Enola Holmes) My name is Enola Holmes. I started a detective agency.

FADEL: And while the descendants of some creators argue for extending copyrights, Lee says he'd like to see works enter the public domain faster.

LEE: I think it would be better to have shorter copyright terms, and I don't necessarily think people should be able to control what happens, like, long after they're dead.

MARTÍNEZ: But are you ever really dead if your work lives on as a horror movie villain? Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.