By Armando Tinoco
Night & Weekend Editor
John Oliver was back at it again on his HBO Max late-night show Last Week Tonight and is testing Disney lawyers introducing Mickey Mouse as his new mascot.
The last segment of his show focused on intellectual property reminding viewers that Disney was about to lose their copyright on the original Mickey Mouse character from Steamboat Willie after 95 years.
“Mickey Mouse will soon be public property in the U.S. which is a big deal because this copyright is a closely guarded corporate treasure,” Oliver said.
Oliver mentioned that Disney had been aggressive in guarding the copyright of Mickey and was successful in passing a bill in the early 2000s that extended their protection. The host also pointed out that Disney has some registered trademarks that include the original Steamboat Willie Mickey, speculating that as the reason they included that version in the Walt Disney Animation Studios opening logo.
“It does feel like a tactical legal move,” Oliver added. “Basically, they may argue that this early Mickey’s image is so closely associated with their company that people automatically assume that any image of him was produced or authorized by them and still take legal action.”
Oliver continued, “The fact is anyone wanting to use the Steamboat Willie Mickey Mouse will probably still be taking a risk but if you know anything about this show by now, we do like to take a risk every now and then.”
The late-night host then introduced “a brand new character for this show” in the form of a black and white Mickey Mouse.
Although Mickey Mouse is set to enter the public domain in 2024, Oliver added, “we are staking our claim to Mickey Mouse right now and I know Disney’s lawyers might argue that this Mickey is closely associated with their brand. Although they should know that he’s pretty associated with our brand now too.”
Oliver pointed out that the Steamboat Willie Mickey Mouse had been appearing in the opening credits for Last Week Tonight throughout his latest season and he doesn’t doubt that “Disney has some other legal arguments up their sleeve.”
“We’re only likely to find out what the [arguments are] if and when they sue,” he said before introducing a costumed Mickey Mouse character.
Earlier in the show, the comedian tackled the protests in France after president Emmanuel Macron overrode parliament to pass a bill that raised the retirement age from 62 to 64. Since making the move, French citizens have rioted around the city of Paris causing fires.
After mentioning the fires, Oliver took the opportunity to take a swipe at the Barefoot Contessa star.
“Honestly, it’s kind of jarring to see fires in Paris that were started by something other than their usual cause — the explosive heat generated by Ina and Jeffrey’s relentless f***ing at their Parisian apartment,” he quipped.
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