As reported two months ago (see “Lucasfilm vs. Ainsworth Legal Battle Continues in 2011; UK Supreme Court Case To Be Heard in March”), the dispute between Lucasfilm and the British prop maker who built the stormtrooper helmets used in Star Wars: A New Hope will be heard by the United Kingdom Supreme Court beginning tomorrow.
The legal battle between Lucasfilm Limited and Andrew Ainsworth of Shepperton Design Studios is over the sale of unlicensed replica Star Wars props and costumes. The UK Supreme Court is expected to rule on two issues (quoting from an article published by TheLawyer.com):
1) “whether a defendant domiciled in England can be sued here for his acts in the US that amount to infringement of copyright under US law; and”
2) “and whether the helmets were in fact sculptures”
As noted in January, the outcome of the dispute will have “major implications for the UK film industry”, in that if Ainsworth prevails and the court holds that copyright protection is limited to 15 years, it could consequently serve as a deterrent for film and television studios to utilize UK-based prop makers as they could later sell unlicensed replicas of props that they design and produce under the employ of the production companies.
Both The Daily Mail and The Independent pick up the story in the Sunday editions of their paper. The latter referenced a letter with support from Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Jon Landau, and Peter Jackson that will be submitted at this week’s hearing.
The paper quotes Spielberg as stating:
The court was wrong in this case and has placed the UK at odds with the world community and, perhaps most disturbing, the creative community. This ruling must be reversed.
The Independent published the following quote from Peter Jackson:
The UK’s long-standing reputation as a creative hub and a centre for film production is significantly threatened. To assert a film’s props and visuals are not the product of an artistic endeavour and therefore not worthy of copyright protection is ridiculous. This short-sighted and ill-informed ruling will do incalculable damage. No other country in the world takes such a position.
The news organization also provided a new statement from defendant Andrew Ainsworth:
I created it all originally and he made a film of it. The copyright for three-dimensional work is invested in me but I didn’t do anything about it for 30 years, as English people don’t. We won in the High Court and the Appeal Court, but he has got so much money he can convince the Supreme Court it’s got to be done again. What he is after is to change the law, to change European law.
The last statement was provided by an unnamed Lucasfilm representative:
These works of art should receive the full protection of UK copyright law, just as they do in the rest of the world.
The article published by The Independent – “Exhibit A, m’lud, a helmet for a stormtrooper” – can be read in its entirety at www.independent.co.uk:
The story by The Daily Mail – “From a galaxy far far away to a battle in court: British designer in fight over Star Wars stormtrooper copyright” – can be found at www.dailymail.co.uk:
The Supreme Court case will begin tomorrow, March 7th. The Original Prop Blog will continue to closely monitor this story as it develops.
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