A Legal Blog by Aaron | Sanders, PLLC


The Force Toys Around: Can You Post a Picture of Your Favorite Star Wars Action Figure?

DMCA = Darth’s Malicious Copyright Attack

Warning: careful about clicking some of the links. There may be spoilers. Well, a spoiler.

I have it on good authority that Star Wars fans were surprised to discover an action figure of a major character from the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie for sale at their local Walmart. What’s more, said action figure might constitute something of a spoiler because the packaging depicts the character as holding … something that might give away a hitherto unknown secret about the character. Excited, these people took pictures of the toy (with packaging) and uploaded to websites, such as Star Wars Action News and plain-old Facebook and Twitter. Disney and/or LucasFilm then got those images removed by sending DMCA take-down notices to their hosts. TorrentFreak has details. Fortune and Ars Technica have also covered.

If you’re OK learning a possible spoiler, here’s the photograph at issue.

Ah, the delicate balance between fandom and intellectual-property enforcement! This seems a little heavy-handed, no? Maybe an instance of automation gone overboard? Or, perhaps the toy was mistakenly released early and someone wants to stop a certain spoiler from getting out? Relating to the last theory: the DMCA notifications have described…

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Is Copyright Law Just a Jedi Mind Trick?

You Might Need to Be a Jedi to Separate Form from Function in a 3D Object

How a Small Difference Between British and US Copyright Law Made a Big Difference

There’s been a good deal of buzz on some of geekier websites that I frequent about this decision.*  At first, it was portrayed as a huge loss by a Goliath at the hands of a David over ownership of the intellectual property in the Stormtrooper’s helmets from Star Wars.  Quickly, though, a more accurate narrative emerged.  While it really was a victory for David over Goliath–and the victory really was big for David (you have to admire him for sticking to his guns)–it wasn’t so terrible for Goliath.  Goliath got to keep the copyright on the Stormtrooper Helmet design, but it now has to tolerate the manufacture and sale by our “David” (or anyone else in the UK) of articles based on that design.  (Of course, our “David” can do the job better because he has the actual molds!).

*  The decision was rendered by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, which is the highest civil court there.  Before 2009, these judges were known as the “Law Lords,” which…

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