In a galaxy not so far away… (the United Kingdom under the rule of HRH)… the original designer and prop maker of the Star Wars stormtrooper costume continues to make replicas of the iconic stormtrooper in his basement and sell them over the internet. This basement stormtrooper-production-line led to a legal battle in the UK’s highest court. Lucasfilms filed a lawsuit for copyright violation, in the hopes of shutting down the basement production.
The court ruled in favor of the basement stormtrooper-production since UK copyright law offers a short term of copyright protection for ‘props’ and that period of protection had expired. (Interestingly, the same stormtrooper costumes are covered by a much longer term of copyright protection in the UK if the court had found them to be works of sculpture instead of classified as props. Here in United States, if the stormtroopers were being produced in a basement on US soil… it is likely that Lucasfilms would have prevailed because, the US copyright law offers a much longer term of copyright protection regardless of the classification of the copyrightable work as a sculpture or prop.) Since the stormtrooper costumes are still under copyright protection in the US, damages may have to be paid to Lucasfilms for any costumes that were sold here in the US.
Copyright laws and the term of copyright protection vary from country to country.
(I gotta tell ya, that I visited the UK courtroom while this case was being tried and there were stormtroopers set up all over the place. The combination of wigs, robes, courtroom formalities and stormtroopers felt like another dimension… straight out of Star Wars.)
The case is: Lucasfilm v. Ainsworth, No.  UKSC 39, U.K. Supreme Court. See also, http://www.supremecourt.gov.uk/news/latest-judgments.html; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.
BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.
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