Blood and Honey: The Horror of Public Domain

By: Alexandra Timmer

The goal of copyright is to further the progression of art and science.[1] However, the public domain is the true champion of promoting the progression of art and science as it is how people throughout history have created.[2] People have always been inspired by works that came before them and, through the public domain, can build off them, creating new works and continuing the progression of art. Public domain encompasses material not protected by copyright or other intellectual property laws.[3]  Instead of one person owning a work, the public owns it.[4]  The public domain opens the door for people to create new material without going through all the red tape of copyright, especially when it comes to universally beloved works that would otherwise be too expensive for creators to access.[5]

A new movie has caused people to question if there is a downside to the public domain. Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey is a low-budget slasher film that sees the animals from the Hundred Acre Wood on the hunt for blood.[6] Except for Tigger, the whole gang entered into the “public domain on January 1, 2022, when the copyright on A.A. Milne’s 1926 book, Winnie-the-Pooh, expired.”[7] Tigger debuted in 1928 and entered the public domain on January 1, 2024.[8]  Many fans of the original work were outraged when the trailer for Blood and Honey was released, with many people commenting that the movie ruined their favorite childhood characters.[9]  However, defenders of the public domain stood up for the movie. 

Jennifer Jenkins, a law professor and director of Duke University’s “Center for the Study of Public Domain,” compares public domain issues to free speech; regardless of whether society likes it or not, people have a right to it.[10]

“Some uses of public domain material will be welcome to some and disturbing to others,” Jenkins says.[11] “But I don’t think new content uniformly saps the value of the original work. I have the original books. I adore them. The fact that this slasher film is out there has no effect whatsoever on how I feel about A.A. Milne’s original creation or E.H. Shepard’s pencil sketches.”[12]

The makers behind Blood and Honey were likely not trying to ruin people’s childhoods but instead trying to drum up some cheap and easy PR for their movie that people might otherwise write off as another B-rated slasher movie.[13]  People went to see Blood and Honey either to “hate watch” it or out of sheer curiosity to watch Winnie the Pooh murdering people.[14]  Either way, people paid money to see it. It played on 1,500 screens across North America.[15] It had a budget of $100,000 and ended up grossing 5.2 million dollars worldwide.[16] Like it or not, Blood and Honey was an ingenious way for independent filmmakers to get their movies seen by the world, and after the success of Blood and Honey, more films will follow in its footsteps.[17] 

The version of Mickey Mouse from Steamboat Willie entered the public domain on January 1, 2024, and with it came the release of the trailer for Mickey’s Mouse Trap, a slasher film starring Mickey Mouse.[18] Mickey’s Mouse Trap has been a long time coming as Disney has had a knack for pushing back the copyright expirations on their characters. Steamboat Willie’s copyright was originally set to expire in 1983 until Congress passed a new copyright act that protected works for fifty years after the author’s death, making the new copyright expiration date 2003.[19]  In 1998, Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which extended copyright protection to 70 years after the author’s death, setting up Steamboat Willie’s expiration date to January 1, 2024.[20]

Just because Steamboat Willie and Winnie the Pooh are in the public domain now does not necessarily mean they will always be.

In Golan v. Holder (2012), the U.S. “Supreme Court held that Congress may remove works from the public domain without violating the Constitution. Even if the public now enjoys unfettered access to a work, Congress is allowed to take that work out of the public domain and create a new legal monopoly over it.”[21]

The Supreme Court went even further and held that Congress can remove a work from the public domain even when it goes against the goal of copyright and “does not encourage anyone to produce a single new work.”[22]

Given the recent ruling in Golan v. Holder and the fact that Disney was able to keep extending Steamboat Willie’s copyright for decades, it is highly likely that, given its wealth and vast resources, Disney will be able to “put the mouse back in its hole,” so to speak, to keep their most beloved and profitable character to themselves. 

[1] U.S. Copyright Office, What is Copyright?,, (last visited March 29, 2024),,their%20respective%20Writings%20and%20Discoveries.%E2%80%9D&text=Copyright%20has%20been%20a%20part%20of%20U.S.%20law%20since%20the%20nation’s%20founding/.

[2] See Rich Stim, Welcome to the Public Domain, Copyright and Fair Use: Stanford Libraries, (last visited March 29, 2024),

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5]  See id.

[6] Jake Coyle, Winnie the Pooh just entered public domain and pop culture may never be the same, National Post, (Feb. 14, 2023),

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] See id.

[14] See id.

[15] Id.

[16] Alex Ritman, ‘Winnie-The-Pooh, Blood and Honey’ Sequel First-Look Images Revealed (Exclusive), The Hollywood Reporter, (Sept. 8, 2023)

[17] Jake Coyle, Winnie the Pooh just entered public domain and pop culture may never be the same, National Post, (Feb. 14, 2023),

[18] Dana Noraas, ‘Mickey’s Mouse Trap’: Plot, Cast, Trailer, and Everything We Know About the Slasher Parody, Collider, (Jan. 16, 2024),

[19] Kristyn Webb, Mickey Mouse Copyright Expires at the End of 2023, Fishman Stewart: Intellectual Property, (Sept. 8, 2022),

[20] Id.

[21] Duke Law, Center for the Study of the Public Domain -Frequently Asked Questions, (last visited March 14, 2024, 8:00 PM),

[22] Id.

Photo: Craig David Dowsett, Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey, Photo by Shout! Studio, a division of Shout! Factory LLC Distribution, 2023,