01/08/2008. Contributed by Jessica Martin
The English High Court has found that poor old British firm Shepperton Design Studios and its unlucky principal, Andrew Ainsworth, violated the US copyright of Lucasfilm by making Star Wars stormtrooper helmets and other science fiction costume replicas from the Lucas's movies.
The ruling by Justice Mann in the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, recognised that Lucasfilm is the sole owner of all rights to the imperial stormtrooper designs.
"We are grateful to the court for its ruling, which makes it clear that Lucasfilm and George Lucas are the rightful owners of the copyrights related to Star Wars," Lucasfilm Vice President Howard Roffman told SFcrowsnest. "We do not intend to use this ruling to discourage our fans from expressing their imagination, creativity and passion for Star Wars through the costumes and props they make for their personal use. Rather, we see the Court's decision as reaffirming that those who seek to illegally profit from Star Wars will be brought to task, wherever they may be."
The court held that Ainsworth infringed Lucasfilm's rights when he made the stormtrooper helmet replicas and sold them under a claim that he had created the designs, which were used in 1977's Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. Ainsworth was a plastics manufacturer who was hired in 1976 to reproduce designs created by a team of Lucasfilm artists, including costume designer John Mollo, who won an Academy Award for his work on the film.
The trial included testimony from Mollo, Gary Kurtz, producer of Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope and Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back; and Roffman, among others. Lucasfilm presented as evidence lots of sketches, designs, drawings and plans from the first Star Wars film, which was produced in England in 1976. Original Imperial stormtrooper costumes were displayed for the court as evidence.
The trial now moves into the remedies phase, in which the court will determine how much poor old Andrew and his firm will have to pay out. And one thing is for sure, Lucasfilm ain't going to be accepting imperial credits as payment!
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