Lucas loses copyright appeal over TK helmets

Times Online: Lucas loses Copyright Appeal…

(For all you non-nerds, a TK is a Stormtrooper. As in, “TK-421, why aren’t you at your post?”)

“[T]he Court of Appeal agreed that even though Mr Ainsworth did not own the design, he had not broken any British law because his creations were not art.”

According to the story, Lucas sued in California, got a default judgment against Ainsworth for $20 million, and tried, unsuccessfully, to enforce it in Britain. The British Court of Appeal said that the helmets weren’t sculpture or art (which would have been protectable under copyright,) they were industrial designs, which are only protectable for 15 years.

I think Lucasfilm is right that this could create a new precedent in England for propmakers and costumers to make and sell props that have fallen into the public domain. “Dr. Who” is a perfect example because it’s been on the air for decades. It’ll be interesting to see if the British Supreme Court reverses the COA in order to protect British film- and prop-makers. I wonder if it’s relevant that Ainsworth was commissioned to make the original helmets for the film—or if he realizes that there are a other guys with molds who can capitalize off of this decision. Ainsworth might not have as much of a niche market as he thinks, and since he’s successfully fought to have these helmets be in the public domain, he can’t really argue that he should be able to copyright them.

I have to say, though, that anyone saying that the helmet and armor have a “‘utilitarian’ rather than artistic purpose”—as the Justices did here—has obviously never worn either of them. 😉


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