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    George Lucas Owns the Universe: A Timeline of Star Wars Copyright Battles

    Written by

    Ryan Broderick

    As Star Wars tributes go, this one was a real monster. AT-AT For America was a tumblr aimed at trying to build a giant, working AT-AT — the mammoth robot dog-looking thing that appears in The Empire Strikes Back, where one is felled by a clever Luke Skywalker and a grappling hook.

    Mike Koehler started the blog and opened a Kickstarter account, trying to finally bring one of the giant Imperial walkers into the real world. Because, let’s face it, who in their right mind wouldn’t want to take one of these suckers through a drive-thru?

    George Lucas, of course. Lucasfilm pulled a Skywalker on Koehler and shut the whole project down. He’s now returning donations and has posted a final letter to supporters thanking them for their enthusiasm and generosity.

    George guy-who-accidentally-fell-into-making-a-movie-that-changed-everything Lucas has a very strange history with copyright. To celebrate another shining example of intergalactic corporate territorialism (to say nothing of selling out), here is a timeline of Lucas’ finer moments in defending intellectual property.

    2011

    • George Lucas enters a volley of lawsuits and countersuits against a British costume designer selling replica Stormtrooper outfits. The case goes all the way to the British supreme court. Lucas’ camp (ranch?) says it’s willing to go as high and as far as it takes, intending to bring in Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and Peter Jackson to testify.
      WINNER: Undecided

    2010

    • Lucasfilm sends a cease-and-desist letter to Jedi Mind Inc.,. Jedi Mind Inc. produces headsets that make it possible for people to interact with computers with their minds (which is completely awesome).

      The two companies tried to settle out of court in 2009, but that didn’t happen and now Lucas is looking for $5 million in damages. Even more hilarious is the legal basis Lucas’ lawyers are using noting “all characteristics associated with the Jedi knights not memorialized in a registered trademark … (including) Jedi robes, the lightsaber weapon, the power to levitate objects, a telepathic oneness with other Jedi and the universe, and the ability to shoot energy beams called ‘Force Lightning’ from the fingertips.”

      Imagine being a grown man with a law degree and having to write that. And then read that out loud to people?
      WINNER: Undecided
    • Lucasfilm sues a laser making company over their real-life laser that looks an awful lot like Lucasfilm’s make-believe laser. Lucasfilm gave them a list of demands, the companies went back and forth for a while, and then Lucas rescinded the cease-and-desist when he decided his corporate penis was bigger, releasing a letter stating, “The media and public has come to realize that Lucasfilm would never endorse or license a highly dangerous product such as your Arctic Pro Laser.” Oh, okay, yeah.
      WINNER: People Who Like Star Wars

    2009

    • This one is a strange one. Lucasfilm owns the copyright of the word Droid, which is silly, of course, because it’s just half of the word android. Even sillier, is that Motorola pays for the use of it. If you go to their website, on the bottom in the tiny no-one-reads-this font it says, “DROID is a trademark of Lucasfilm Ltd. and its related companies. Used under license.”
      WINNER: George Lucas

    2007

    2002

    • Lucasfilm ushered in the beginning of the 21st century with a hilarious copyright squabble over a porno called Star Ballz. You can buy the VHS on Amazon.

      It’s what appears to be an anime porn-parody of Star Wars. Lucasfilm sued the makers over fear that people would confuse the two movies. Lucas and company lost with the judge ruling, "The Star Wars films are so famous that it is extremely unlikely that consumers would believe that Starballz is associated with Star Wars or Lucasfilm.”
      WINNER: People Who Like Star Wars

    1985

    The court case that started it all, “Lucasfilm Ltd. v. High Frontier, 622 F.Supp. 931 (D.D.C. 1985).” Lucas essentially sued Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative for naming their satellite weapons program, “Star Wars.”

    The ruling, which should be referenced every time one of these stupid lawsuits pops up was, “When politicians, newspapers, and the public generally use the phrase star wars for their convenience, in parody or descriptively to further a communication of their views on SDI, plaintiff has no rights as owner of the mark to prevent this use of STAR WARS.”
    WINNER: People Who Like Star Wars

    TOTAL SCORE
    People Who Like Star Wars: 2
    George Lucas: 2

    VERDICT
    If you like Star Wars, George Lucas probably hates you and will sue you into oblivion. Of course, whether or not he even has the right to is a whole different story. To wit: the cases in which he allows for Star Wars adaptations. Heard the one about when Snoop Dogg and Daft Punk walked into a cantina?

    Photo: PC Gamer.

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