UK Court Force Chokes George Lucas's Copyright Lawsuit

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UK Court Force Chokes George Lucas's Copyright Lawsuit

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George Lucas's $20 million lawsuit against the man who made stormtrooper helmets for the original Star Wars movies is over, and Lucas can't be happy with the results.

Andrew Ainsworth has spent over five years and 700,000 going up against George Lucas's lawyers, stuck in a bitter copyright battle with the movie mogul. However, the fight is finally over and Mr. Ainsworth has reason to celebrate: The U.K.'s Supreme Court has sided with him about his right replica Stormtrooper helmets.

If you haven't heard of Ainsworth before now, here's the Reader's Digest version of how this case came to be. The man was a 27-year-old art school graduate when he created the original helmets for the first Star Wars film. In 2002, he was struggling to pay off school costs, so he sold one of the original helmets and some "bits and pieces" that were collecting dust around his house. The gear sold for 60,000 at Christie's, which gave Ainsworth the idea to break out the original molds and start making/selling helmets to dedicated fans.

Unsurprisingly, Lucasfilm wasn't too happy when word of the helmet sales appeared, and that's when things got litigious:

Lucasfilm sued for $20m in 2004, arguing Mr Ainsworth did not hold the intellectual property rights and had no right to sell them - a point upheld by a US court.

But the judgement could not be enforced because the designer held no assets in the US, so the battle moved to the UK.

It turned out that no Lucas and Ainsworth never signed any paperwork, though the courts decided that there was an implied contract between the two men. However, the initial claim was rejected and the court battle centered around whether the helmets being sold were works of art or industrial props. If they were the former, then copyright protection would last for 70 years after the life of the author; the latter, though, only enjoys copyright protection for fifteen years after the date they were originally created and marketed.

The High Court and Court of Appeal ruled in Ainsworth's favor, and the Supreme Court just followed suit. While Ainsworth is undoubtedly thrilled -after all, he turns a pretty tidy profit on the helmets and sets of armor- Lucasfilm clearly is pretty angry. After the ruling, a spokesperson for the film stated, "We believe the imaginative characters, props, costumes, and other visual assets that go into making a film deserve protection in Britain. The UK should not allow itself to become a safe haven for piracy."

What will be interesting to see is just how this will affect Lucasfilm's revenue. According to Ainsworth's lawyer, the legal decision "opens a 'Pandora's box' as anyone is now free to make the models."

Source: BBC

Permalink

Ahh diddums Lucas. Did you just loose your hottub filled with cash to match the olympic sized swimming pool! At last a copyright claim that is settled in the right persons favour.

"We believe the imaginative characters, props, costumes, and other visual assets that go into making a film deserve protection in Britain. The UK should not allow itself to become a safe haven for piracy.

Because it's so wrong for the guy who designed and made them originally to make money off of his own work.

What a load of crap, there is no "pandora's box" that's been opened by this case. The guy has a leg to stand on legally because he's the one who made the damn things in the first place. The situation would be completely different if it was Joe blow off the streets making the armor and turning a profit.

If there's a lesson to be learned here it's that a contract would have protected George Lucas' every growing mountain of money had he taken the time to write it up back in the 70's instead of just assuming he could rip off a struggling 27 year old art student.

Apparently, George Lucas is clearly jealous of Ainsworth.

Why not just grant the guy exclusive licensing rights to distribute the stuff in the UK, then?

Nice slippery slope argument Lucas has going. Too bad UK's judges didn't buy it.

KeyMaster45:

"We believe the imaginative characters, props, costumes, and other visual assets that go into making a film deserve protection in Britain. The UK should not allow itself to become a safe haven for piracy.

Because it's so wrong for the guy who designed and made them originally to make money off of his own work.

He didn't rip him off, and yes the guy did originally make them, the answer to both points however is that the guy was contracted to make these things. That said, Lucas should have drafted a contract 30 years ago and it wouldn't have killed him to actually offer to pay this guy to close this loophole before it became public/grew larger. He has the resources one would think to have made a generous offer.

canadamus_prime:
Why not just grant the guy exclusive licensing rights to distribute the stuff in the UK, then?

A beautiful idea for how lucas could have amicably settled this with a little more flexible thinking.

vansau:
"We believe the imaginative characters, props, costumes, and other visual assets that go into making a film deserve protection in Britain. The UK should not allow itself to become a safe haven for piracy."

Well then Lucas, you should have followed up with the proper paperwork establishing the props as official industrial props. You fail at just taking things for granted as well as treating your contributors as shit. Considering what the original movies brought in, it is a travesty this guy wasn't paid enough in the first place to pay off his school costs.

Better move would have been giving the guy recognition for his hard work. Now Lucasfilm just looks like the big bully all over again, who now is a big loser as well.

hold on, what's this doing in featured content? isn't it news?

Oh yes, like Lucasfilms needs more money, how about instead of pointless lawsuits you just make a Blu-Ray rererelease of the original trilogy with more pointless bonus features, and a new case so that your millions of crazy die-hard fans will shell out ANOTHER $60 to get their hands on it.

KeyMaster45:
What a load of crap, there is no "pandora's box" that's been opened by this case. The guy has a leg to stand on legally because he's the one who made the damn things in the first place. The situation would be completely different if it was Joe blow off the streets making the armor and turning a profit.

Nope. He won the case because the helmets and armour were ruled to be industrial props, which only get 15 years of IP law protection. That means anyone with the skill to make them can start turning them out... in the UK anyway.

While I abhor piracy, this is a case of the auteur or maybe the auter's lawyers getting "to big for their boots".

If they and Lucas had won, what next? people getting sued for the use of the word "Star"?

On a serious note, hardcore Star Wars fans will go to this guy for authentic costumes, he should be applauded Lucas (and Lucas Lawyer missiles) not chided because he's given fans an outlet for there hobby, this stuff is original and made from the mold as it were.

Come on Lucas, make some stormtrooper outfits yourself, lets see how you measure up?

that bit about the british courts becoming a haven for piracy really rubbed me the wrong way when i first read it, in fact a lot of the things lucasfilm's lawyers said pissed me off.

we have a legitimate system and if lucasfilms ad followed proper procedure when they first hired the guy there would have been no problem.

lastly, there is no pandoras box here, this was already an established piece of legislation, in fact if the decisions would have had disastrous consequences, then the courts wouldnt have ruled against lucasfilms because in those situations, the courts weight up the potential flood gate of problems there rulings will have, against the rights of the parties, and if they deem the decision would have massive repercussions, they would rule against it

KeyMaster45:

"We believe the imaginative characters, props, costumes, and other visual assets that go into making a film deserve protection in Britain. The UK should not allow itself to become a safe haven for piracy.

Because it's so wrong for the guy who designed and made them originally to make money off of his own work.

What a load of crap, there is no "pandora's box" that's been opened by this case. The guy has a leg to stand on legally because he's the one who made the damn things in the first place. The situation would be completely different if it was Joe blow off the streets making the armor and turning a profit.

If there's a lesson to be learned here it's that a contract would have protected George Lucas' every growing mountain of money had he taken the time to write it up back in the 70's instead of just assuming he could rip off a struggling 27 year old art student.

While I agree the artist should've won this case, it DOES open a can of worms, as the ruling means that anyone in the UK can make them. I'm not quite sure how you'd go about sealing up that can of worms, as I think it should be limited to Lucas Arts and the Artist making them, otherwise now any shmuck can make them and not be in infringement of copy write (and as much as I think George Lucas is a hack these days) and that just isn't right, as it does technically cut into the artists theoretical IP rights of the Storm Troopers physical look. While it now official has no IP protection, it was still his idea, and he's won...but at a cost, if you catch my drift.

"The UK should not allow itself to become a safe haven for piracy."

Because a lifetime + 70 years of copyright is cool.

minimacker:
"The UK should not allow itself to become a safe haven for piracy."

Because a lifetime + 70 years of copyright is cool.

Yes, especially when the creator is a corporation... which, when you take Work for Hire and Commissioned Works IP into account, is more common than people might think.

ColdStorage:

If they and Lucas had won, what next? people getting sued for the use of the word "Star"

Or next thing you know, Edge Games will be suing people for using the word "Edge"!
..wait a minute...

jamiedf:
lastly, there is no pandoras box here, this was already an established piece of legislation, in fact if the decisions would have had disastrous consequences, then the courts wouldnt have ruled against lucasfilms because in those situations, the courts weight up the potential flood gate of problems there rulings will have, against the rights of the parties, and if they deem the decision would have massive repercussions, they would rule against it

Well there goes my dreams of moving to the UK and starting a business making movie prop knock offs. :D

Just lost a lot of respect for George Lucas. Instead of suing the guy he should have given him licensing rights to create and distribute the suits in exchange for a percentage of the profits, I bet Ainsworth wouldn't have said no to that and Lucas would have been in a better position right now.

(I think there is only one way to describe how I feel about Lucas getting pwnded with Star Wars)

image

"YEEE HAAAA!!! Great shot, kid. That was one in a million!"

Here, this is for you:

Remember Andrew, the Force will be with you... always.

[/nerd mode]

vansau:
The High Court and Court of Appeal ruled in Ainsworth's favor, and the Supreme Court just followed suit. While Ainsworth is undoubtedly thrilled -after all, he turns a pretty tidy profit on the helmets and sets of armor- Lucasfilm clearly is pretty angry. After the ruling, a spokesperson for the film stated, "We believe the imaginative characters, props, costumes, and other visual assets that go into making a film deserve protection in Britain. The UK should not allow itself to become a safe haven for piracy."

Because when I think Piracy, I think illegally downloading Stormtrooper Helmets O.O

This makes me lose a fair bit of respect for George Lucas. I wonder what Lucas does with all his money anyhows?

Bawwwww Lucas is sour. Nobody cares what he thinks anymore since he displays so much contempt for his fans.

This result gets my seal of approval!

RhombusHatesYou:

jamiedf:
lastly, there is no pandoras box here, this was already an established piece of legislation, in fact if the decisions would have had disastrous consequences, then the courts wouldnt have ruled against lucasfilms because in those situations, the courts weight up the potential flood gate of problems there rulings will have, against the rights of the parties, and if they deem the decision would have massive repercussions, they would rule against it

Well there goes my dreams of moving to the UK and starting a business making movie prop knock offs. :D

haha, you still can, thats why this case is stupid, because anyone can make a replica, solong as you say its a replica, so everyone saying its a problem because everyone can now go out making those suits are dense, because they could already do that.

elvor0:

KeyMaster45:

"We believe the imaginative characters, props, costumes, and other visual assets that go into making a film deserve protection in Britain. The UK should not allow itself to become a safe haven for piracy.

Because it's so wrong for the guy who designed and made them originally to make money off of his own work.

What a load of crap, there is no "pandora's box" that's been opened by this case. The guy has a leg to stand on legally because he's the one who made the damn things in the first place. The situation would be completely different if it was Joe blow off the streets making the armor and turning a profit.

If there's a lesson to be learned here it's that a contract would have protected George Lucas' every growing mountain of money had he taken the time to write it up back in the 70's instead of just assuming he could rip off a struggling 27 year old art student.

While I agree the artist should've won this case, it DOES open a can of worms, as the ruling means that anyone in the UK can make them. I'm not quite sure how you'd go about sealing up that can of worms, as I think it should be limited to Lucas Arts and the Artist making them, otherwise now any shmuck can make them and not be in infringement of copy write (and as much as I think George Lucas is a hack these days) and that just isn't right, as it does technically cut into the artists theoretical IP rights of the Storm Troopers physical look. While it now official has no IP protection, it was still his idea, and he's won...but at a cost, if you catch my drift.

But what is the worst that can happen. You mean that the Star Wars brand might be cheapened for mass profits?

LUCAS ALREADY DID THAT!!!

With the entire prequel trilogy and even before that with the "special" editions on Star Wars trilogy, in fact I'd say Star Wars is in batter hands with any moderately loyal Star Wars fan than GL himself.

George is fucking up everything he did, he fucked up Indy 4 as well. Someone stop this madman!

I don't know where he went crazy. Was it the complete lack of academy recognition? Was it that he made more money selling toys to kids than movies to adults? Was it too many intolerable fan conventions? or was it simply that to even make Star Wars in 1977 takes a certain amount of crazy that means you can't just follow through with it later in life.

Look, I get it that Lucas wants to try new things, but if he wants to do that he should create a brand new IP and leave Star Wars to people who actually respect and love it.

You reckon he does a bulk deal for henchmen?

:D

Chronamut:
This makes me lose a fair bit of respect for George Lucas. I wonder what Lucas does with all his money anyhows?

He does this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPX5mRSQ3pw

vansau:
"The UK should not allow itself to become a safe haven for piracy."

aww shucks, I was hoping to see more pirates as I wandered down the street!

but O.T well done mate!

Chronamut:
This makes me lose a fair bit of respect for George Lucas. I wonder what Lucas does with all his money anyhows?

You still had respect for Lucas? I haven't had respect for Lucas in years, in fact I wasn't even the least bit surprised when I read this.

elvor0:

While I agree the artist should've won this case, it DOES open a can of worms, as the ruling means that anyone in the UK can make them. I'm not quite sure how you'd go about sealing up that can of worms, as I think it should be limited to Lucas Arts and the Artist making them, otherwise now any shmuck can make them and not be in infringement of copy write (and as much as I think George Lucas is a hack these days) and that just isn't right, as it does technically cut into the artists theoretical IP rights of the Storm Troopers physical look. While it now official has no IP protection, it was still his idea, and he's won...but at a cost, if you catch my drift.

I honestly don't see the problem with any shmuck making the props and selling them. If someone is good at making them and as put in a great amount of effort into making them then I don't see why he shouldn't be allowed to sell the.

tthor:

ColdStorage:

If they and Lucas had won, what next? people getting sued for the use of the word "Star"

Or next thing you know, Edge Games will be suing people for using the word "Edge"!
..wait a minute...

Haha, you'll still get trademark trolls, I'm glad that guy has lost though.

Treblaine:
(I think there is only one way to describe how I feel about Lucas getting pwnded with Star Wars)

image

"YEEE HAAAA!!! Great shot, kid. That was one in a million!"

SQUEE!!

Wanna go to Disneyland with me Treblaine!, we'll totally have fun on Star Tours!

Don't look at me like that, Star Tours is a serious theme park ride!*

*Nitrogen is pumped into the "Vehicle" your in while the film plays, because it heightens your senses, Star Tour is Disney and Star Wars getting together to make you high. SERIOUS FUCKING BUSINESS!

Sir Shockwave:

vansau:
The High Court and Court of Appeal ruled in Ainsworth's favor, and the Supreme Court just followed suit. While Ainsworth is undoubtedly thrilled -after all, he turns a pretty tidy profit on the helmets and sets of armor- Lucasfilm clearly is pretty angry. After the ruling, a spokesperson for the film stated, "We believe the imaginative characters, props, costumes, and other visual assets that go into making a film deserve protection in Britain. The UK should not allow itself to become a safe haven for piracy."

Because when I think Piracy, I think illegally downloading Stormtrooper Helmets O.O

Sweet! Where can I download them?

AHhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Nice to see copyright laws actually protect the artist and not the big Imperial Empir... Corporation.

ColdStorage:
While I abhor piracy, this is a case of the auteur or maybe the auter's lawyers getting "to big for their boots".

If they and Lucas had won, what next? people getting sued for the use of the word "Star"?

That's not too far off.
Back in the day Lucas sued the guys who made Battletech (which spawn the Mechwarrior and MechCommander games) because the game was originally called Battledroids. Apparently Lucas didn't like them using the word "droid" even though Isaac Asmiov or some author had used the word a decade or more before Star Wars ever came out.

Obviously, they still changed the name to Battletech and Battlemechs.

Akalabeth:

ColdStorage:
While I abhor piracy, this is a case of the auteur or maybe the auter's lawyers getting "to big for their boots".

If they and Lucas had won, what next? people getting sued for the use of the word "Star"?

That's not too far off.
Back in the day Lucas sued the guys who made Battletech (which spawn the Mechwarrior and MechCommander games) because the game was originally called Battledroids. Apparently Lucas didn't like them using the word "droid" even though Isaac Asmiov or some author had used the word a decade or more before Star Wars ever came out.

Obviously, they still changed the name to Battletech and Battlemechs.

Holy shit, where does it end?

I better PM one of the mods here, his name is George and I think that constitutes as copyright infringement.

Lucas did the same thing all big corporations do; even if they don't have a strong enough case, they'll sue someone until they run out of money to defend themselves and are ruled against by default. Happens all the time.

Lucas was young and had a vision of what he wanted to do, like this guy, so he just wanted to create and didn't worry about things like contracts and IP rights like he should have, but now that he's made a fortune and cares more about merchandising, he wants to mess with people who are struggling to pay debts.

Fuck you, you greedy fatboy, you've fucked up your story by milking it to death to make a buck without giving a shit about it's quality.
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