Winnie the Pooh and Other Disney Characters Enter Public Domain
Winnie the Pooh and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood enter public domain as the copyright protection of the original 1926 book by A.A. Milne expires. Bambi has also fallen into public domain, as the character originated in a Felix Satten novel in 1923.
Although it was Walt Disney that popularized Pooh and Bambi to soaring heights, they can no longer take legal action against any party that wishes to use Milne or Satten’s characters. Pooh, Piglet, Rabbit, and other characters from the original Milne book will now be free for anyone to use in their works.
However, the specific character designs and imagery used in Disney’s famous adaptations are still protected, as is the imagery of various fairy tale characters adapted by Disney that have been public domain for a long time, such as Sleeping Beauty or Snow White. No one can use the Disney versions of Pooh and Bambi without risking a lawsuit.
In addition, not every Winnie the Pooh character has entered public domain; notably, Tigger first appeared in “The House in Pooh Corner” in 1928, meaning he will not be free to use until 2024. The Milne estate can still take legal action towards Disney and other parties for unauthorized use of Tigger and other Milne-created characters appearing after 1926.