Will Disney Block Star Wars Fan-Made Content?

from the there's-a-mouse-in-the-house dept

We discussed recently how George Lucas relinquished control of the Star Wars franchise, selling it to Disney. As Leigh noted in that piece, critics have long chastised Lucas for the control he exerted over his films, as well as the meddling he did on the classics so many hold dear. While that criticism is certainly valid, one area where Lucas seemed to be open -- in many ways bucking the Hollywood trend -- was with fan-made content, such as fan films and fan fiction. In fact, Lucasfilm to a great extent embraced fan fiction, even going so far as to hold contests for such content. The fact that Lucasfilm gained rights ownership of those fan-made films led to some criticism, but at least the company wasn't suing the jedi tunics off of its own fans.
Star Wars Geeks
These aren't the defendants you're looking for.
Image source: CC BY 2.0

But now some folks are wondering about the fate of all this fan-made content, and how future fan content will be received, now that the Empire Disney controls the franchise. Dennis S. writes in about a piece on this topic at Ars Technica, which reads less like a question about fan-made content and more like a propsective eulogy for it.
In 2007, Lucasfilm even released tools that would more easily enable remixing of Star Wars content. A top Lucasfilm lawyer, Jeffrey Ulin, began speaking at conferences and to the media about the value of fan mash-ups and remixes. Those works were "part of keeping the love of Star Wars and the franchise alive... We're really trying to position ourselves for the next 30 years," Ulin told the Wall Street Journal in 2007.

Certainly, Disney fans who make their own movie featuring Mickey Mouse are more likely to get a cease-and-desist letter from a Disney lawyer than an award. After all, it was Disney who famously lobbied Congress to extend copyright terms in 1998, so much so that some dubbed the new law the Mickey Mouse Protection Act. Perhaps no single company more than Disney bears more responsibility for the sorry state of the US public domain, which hasn't seen any significant works added to it in decades. For the most part, culture after 1923 has been frozen in a state of private ownership—mostly owned by the large media corporations that began rising at about that time.
It's very difficult to argue with the precedent that the article lays out. Star Wars enjoys what may well be the biggest franchise fanbase ever. Part of that fanbase is so fanatical that they want to take part in the fun, sharing with one another their own creations and extensions of the Star Wars story. Many believe it's this same enthusiasm that has built up the Star Wars brand to such an amazing degree, but Disney's history suggests these contributions may no longer be welcome.

Frankly, that may pose a bigger problem than one would imagine. Obviously the Star Wars brand is big enough at this point that whatever content Disney releases is likely to be a hit...but will it grow as fast as it could if Mickey Mouse goes all emperor over the people? There's a serious risk in alienating folks over this kind of thing. Star Wars fans aren't stupid. There's a reason there's been a fair amount of hand-wringing over the sale of the franchise to Disney, seemingly much moreso than other sales like Marvel. This is a community that likes to contribute their own work to the story. I would say that such contributions are integral to the fanbase. If Disney acts to block that kind of thing, as they have in the past, the fans may well rebel against the Empire Disney and its Senate boardroom.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    aeortiz (profile), Nov 6th, 2012 @ 2:58pm

    Goodbye Star-Wars Commercials

    Would the recent appearances of Darth Vader in commercials be possible if Disney held the rights...

    NO.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    Jeffry Houser (profile), Nov 6th, 2012 @ 3:07pm

    Re: Goodbye Star-Wars Commercials

    You mean the commercial for Disney world?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4_dZPVg8KI

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    jupiterkansas (profile), Nov 6th, 2012 @ 4:16pm

    It's likely Disney will keep Star Wars in its own little universe with its own team of people the same way they do Pixar.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2012 @ 4:41pm

    Nice pic of some of the other douches from your LARP league......hahahahahaha

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Killercool (profile), Nov 6th, 2012 @ 5:09pm

    Re:

    So... "Nerd" is the best you got?

    Damn. How do 13-year-olds even find this site?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 6th, 2012 @ 5:43pm

    Re:

    You know what they say about people who laugh uproariously at their own stupid jokes?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Nov 6th, 2012 @ 5:48pm

    Re:

    If by douches, you mean fans...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Nick Dynice (profile), Nov 6th, 2012 @ 5:56pm

    If I had made some Star Wars fan fiction I would say to Disney: Come at me, bro. If the ire of Star Wars geeks can't help drive awareness about the need for copyright reform and the evental reform itself I don't know what can.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    G Thompson (profile), Nov 6th, 2012 @ 5:57pm

    I'm wondering if they will now honour this press release about The Empire Strikes Back Uncut made on October 23rd?

    Especially since if Disney now allow this, it will be both amazing and precedent setting for Disney - though I somehow thing they will try to wrestle control and whatever else they can think of from the project.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    DogBreath, Nov 6th, 2012 @ 5:58pm

    I feel a great disturbance coming in the web...

    possibly as bad as the great culling that Viacom, who had just purchased Paramount, did to the Star Trek presence on the web back in the mid to late 90's.


    To be read in the voice of : Don LaFontaine

    "In a world before 'the Great and Powerful' DMCA existed, threats of lawsuits both far and wide were spread with great abandon like manure from a pitchfork, all across the web. No one was spared, not those accused of violating copyright, or just the many lumped in without care like so many false DMCA notices of today. It was total and complete Fanageddon."


    Hopefully, Disney will learn from mistakes of the past by themselves and others. Truthfully, based on their prior actions and history, I doubt it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    Zos (profile), Nov 6th, 2012 @ 6:05pm

    I've got to wonder how this will impact the 501st.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/501st_Legion

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, Nov 6th, 2012 @ 6:21pm

    Re:

    Most likely, dressing up as a Star Wars character will now be illegal and Disney will probably sue the costume makers into oblivion.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, Nov 6th, 2012 @ 6:24pm

    Disney better not block the release of the last Pink Five film!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    DogBreath, Nov 6th, 2012 @ 6:46pm

    My lack of faith is disturbing...

    Obviously the Star Wars brand is big enough at this point that whatever content Disney releases is likely to be a hit

    "Negative. Negative! It didn't go in. It just impacted on the surface."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 6th, 2012 @ 7:10pm

    Re:

    Congratulations. You're a dickhead. Laughing at die-hard fans of a wonderful story/legacy....you must be the worst kind of douche-nozzle. God forbid you have children, or who knows how you'd judge their interests, you cock sandwich....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    TheLastCzarnian (profile), Nov 6th, 2012 @ 7:34pm

    Re:

    Depends. So many people I meet are already defeated. "Oh, we can't do that? Darn..."
    I'm the only freak I know who gets fired up about these things, and believe me, I know a lot of freaks.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    TheLastCzarnian (profile), Nov 6th, 2012 @ 7:46pm

    What if Disney pulls a Viacom and creates a geek vaccuum? Perhaps it could be filled by totally new universe built entirely in the public domain, for all to borrow, steal, sell, add to, and profit from.

    If only there were some authors who were interested in such things. You know, totally into Sci Fi, maybe silly enough to wear an enormous cranial protection device...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    mp, Nov 6th, 2012 @ 7:48pm

    Petition

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2012 @ 9:02pm

    Re: Re:

    I have children. My kids are athletes. And you LARP leaguers are the most pathetic zeros out there. Grow up, move out of Mom's basement and try watching sports instead of SyFy. Maybe you'll even get a date with an actual girl.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2012 @ 9:04pm

    Re: Re:

    I laugh equally hard at you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2012 @ 9:05pm

    Re: Re:

    Apparently they are one in the same in this instance.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2012 @ 9:18pm

    Re:

    Blargha flargha at its finest.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    Rottweiler (profile), Nov 6th, 2012 @ 10:25pm

    Re:

    The stupid is strong with this one.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2012 @ 10:27pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Sandusky, is that you?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    The eejit (profile), Nov 7th, 2012 @ 12:21am

    Frankly, I'd be far more worried about the other franchises at Hasbro - for example, the memetic qualities of My Little Pony.

    Although I would love to see a pony wielding a Keyblade in the Kingdom Hearts universe.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    Rottweiler (profile), Nov 7th, 2012 @ 12:52am

    Re:

    I think the rumors were debunked by some people who sent e-mails to Hasbro regarding the rumor, and from what they tell, Hasbro has no plans to be bought by Disney, I'll try to provide links later.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    anon, Nov 7th, 2012 @ 3:30am

    I highly doubt disney will choose to alienate the starwars fan base. In today's day and age, word of mouth is more powerful than ever, and so long as they continue to claim all rights to fan-made content, they have no reason to stop it from continuing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2012 @ 4:52am

    Thankfully the sale does not reset prior court decisions and Mr Ainsworth will continue to sell his Stormtrooper outfits/costumes, this does not mean he will not be accused of copyright infringement and/or theft.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Gregg, Nov 7th, 2012 @ 5:36am

    remember the Muppets

    Disney killed the Muppets, Killed John Carter of Mars (sat on the rights for 60+ years) and they will kill Star Wars too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2012 @ 8:21am

    Yes, Disney will go censor-Emperor all over the Star-Wars fans. They are too stupid not to. Disney will alienate and anger fans, possibly to cases of violence against Disney. Disney's history is proof enough, and they have made no effort to change and every effort to increase their censorship. If Disney intended to keep the fans happy, they would have released a statement saying so. Right now, I'm guessing their lawyers are figuring out the best way to sue every Star Wars fan on the planet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Michael, Nov 7th, 2012 @ 8:47am

    Re:

    Yup.

    They are probably going to release new movies with fuzzy creatures or really annoying animal-people that fans will completely hate.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    egghead (profile), Nov 7th, 2012 @ 8:57am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Such hatred I sense in this one. Pwnd in academia was he? Hmm, academic failure leads to self doubt, self doubt to jelousy, jelousy to athletics, athletics to steroids, steroids to rage and rage to the dark side. Teach this one carefully we must.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    icon
    ethorad (profile), Nov 7th, 2012 @ 9:10am

    "The more you tighten your grip, Disney, the more fans will slip through your fingers."
    - Princess Minnie

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2012 @ 9:12am

    Re: Re:

    And this differs from Lucas's contributions how?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2012 @ 10:18am

    Re:

    Similarly, they better not touch the Red Letter Media prequel reviews. ( I have watched the review for Phantom Menace more times than I have watched the film itself. )

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2012 @ 10:28am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2012 @ 4:20pm

    Sorry to hear that...

    I have children. My kids are athletes.

    Athletes? Oh... sorry to hear they weren't smart enough for anything else.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2012 @ 4:29pm

    Because that's what they do...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    icon
    The Groove Tiger (profile), Nov 8th, 2012 @ 6:32am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Coach says I gotta harass the nerds!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Suezahn, Nov 8th, 2012 @ 6:23pm

    I love how folks seem to think that Star Wars fandom began with the advent of the Internet. You should know that there was a very active fandom for 20 years before that--it was THOSE fans who kept the torch burning all that time. And back then Lucasfilm was not nearly so tolerant. Initially he attacked fans who dared to print fanzines containing his copyrighted characters, having his lawyers send out cease & desist letters to various fanzine editors (I happen to have a copy of one of those zines in question). Eventually they gave up on that and completely ignored fandom. Lucas only came to embrace fanfic/art after the advent of the Internet, when he realized it was way beyond his ability to stop and he began to see dollar signs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This