Your January 2024 primer: Mickey Mouse knockoffs, more strikes, and egg yikes

Happy New Year! Enjoy an impossibly grating election ad onslaught, the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

If life on planet Earth didn’t jump the shark in 2023, then humanity at least sidled right up to the tank, made menacing eye contact with that toothy fish, saluted it with two middle fingers, then blew it a kiss and said, “See you soon.”

Your January 2024 primer: Mickey Mouse knockoffs, more strikes, and egg yikes

Next Tuesday, when much of the working world returns to its maddening tasks at hand, many subplots will already be picking up speed. Here’s a li’l smattering to help you hit the ground running:

The granddaddy of all public domain entrants, Mickey Mouse, arrives Monday

Disney will inevitably rage at whatever deranged art follows, but its 95 years of copyright protection for its iconic character (and Minnie Mouse, too) are up.

To be specific — and to avoid Disney’s cadre of lawyers, you’ll need to be — the nonvocal “Steamboat Willie” version is the only version of Mickey that’s fair game.

Also shared IP as of Jan. 1: Pooh’s pal Tigger and a bunch of silent films.

Sorry, execs, but union leaders are riding their wave of momentum into the new year

America saw 70 different weeklong-plus strikes by 100+ workers in 2023, with huge gains to show for it — ~1m union members scored 10%+ pay raises last year. That movement isn’t about to slow down.

Starbucks will resume talks with its workers’ union in January, Anheuser-Busch will try to avert a planned February strike by ~5k employees, and automakers… Well, if you’re not on notice, you should be. The United Auto Workers union, fresh off a win this fall, will attempt to organize ~150k more workers at plants run by major players including Toyota, Honda, and — drama incoming — Tesla.

Oh, great, egg prices are going back up again

A year after egg prices set records (and definitely not in the good “Look how cheap they are” way), they’re bound to spike all over again.

This is less an inflation thing and more a supply issue — Cal-Maine Foods, America’s biggest egg producer, is facing its first avian flu outbreak. But no matter the cause, few things sour a nation’s economic mood to start a year quite like price hikes on grocery essentials.

And so it begins…

January marks the first US presidential primary (specifically, Jan. 23 in New Hampshire), and the beginning of what’ll be a historically high year for political ad spending. 2024’s expected tab is ~$16B, up 31.2% from 2020’s unpleasantness. If so, American politics would, on its own, surpass all of Australia as the world’s 10th-biggest ad market. If you start a “U-S-A! U-S-A!” chant over that, we’ll scream.

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