Star Wars case takes Supreme Court by storm
29 July 2011
It was Star Wars VII: A New Copyright Law
at the Supreme Court this week, as two top QCs battled over the future of the Star Wars universe. Representing the Rebellion, it's Alistair Wilson QC. And for the Empire, Jonathan "Darth" Sumption QC.
Lucasfilm Limited has long been embroiled in a complex international copyright battle with British engineer Andrew Ainsworth, who made the original stormtrooper helmets for the first film. And since then he has continued to make replicas, much to Lucasfilm's chagrin. After a victory in the US - which remains unenforced as Ainsworth has no US assets - the intergalactic battle moved to London.
||The Sumption mind trick fails
The case hinged on whether the stormtrooper helmet was a "sculpture" and thus protected for 70 years after the death of the artist under copyright law. Lucasfilm claimed that the helmet had to be seen as an artistic work - and thus a sculpture - as it could not have a functional purpose as the "Star Wars films are set in an imaginary, science-fiction world of the future
". Seems sensible you might think,
However - agreeing with the earlier decision of the Court of Appeal - the Supreme Court ruled
that the helmet could not
be a sculpture, as - even in a pretend universe - the helmets have "a function within the confines of the film as the equipment of the stormtrooper
It's good to know the UK's top lawyers are keeping busy defending our fundamental rights and freedoms.