Lucasfilm Threatens And Threatens Non-Profit Over Lightsaber Battle Event

from the the-dark-side dept

While we’ve certainly seen a fair share of ridiculous intellectual property protectionism stemming from the Star Wars Franchise, including overreaches like trying to silence people from photographing legally purchased toys and keeping breweries from making beer-themed puns, one area where Lucasfilm was generally pretty good on was fan participation, at least before the acquisition of the Star Wars rights by Disney. This included fan-fiction and films, gatherings, and role-playing events. That’s what makes it so strange to see Lucasfilm decide to bully a non-profit group for daring to put together a “lightsaber battle” event.

Event company Newmindspace had organized the record-setting battles in December involving 9,951 combatants, with 2,000 in San Francisco. In January, it heard from lawyers for Lucasfilm, the San Francisco movie company that brought Star Wars to the world, and holds the rights to the characters, names and concepts within the Star Wars films.

“For three months we have been aggressively pursued by Lucasfilm over the use of the word ‘lightsaber’ in our events,” said Newmindspace co-founder Kevin Bracken. Newmindspace had been putting on “lightsaber battles” for eight years with no pushback, but in January, perhaps because the multi-city battles had drawn media coverage, a letter arrived from the Lucasfilm lawyers. “We immediately stopped using the words ‘lightsaber,’ ‘Jedi,’ ‘Sith’ and ‘The Force,’” Bracken said.

Newmindspace, which also puts on other gathering events, such as massive pillow fights and bubble-gun battles, changed the name of its “lightsaber battle” event, calling it the “Light Battle Tour”, and referring to lightsabers and “light swords.” As you’ve probably already anticipated, Lucasfilm immediately declared that the changes weren’t enough. The lawyers sent more notices demanding more changes. Which is how what was supposed to be a fun gathering of Star Wars fans engaging in a fake lightsaber battle turned into a space battle between cats.

Since the agreement with Lucasfilm, Newmindspace has pivoted, and although it has more battles planned – including one on April 30 in San Jose’s St. James Park at 8 p.m. – it has put entire galaxies between itself and any Star Wars-related language. Lightsabers have been replaced with “Catblades,” which it must be said bear a certain resemblance to the famed movie weapon of Luke and Obi-Wan. And the sword-fight events are now dubbed “Cats in Space” because, said Bracken, “with the simple addition of whiskers to anyone’s face, they can be completely transformed into a galactic warrior – all it takes is a few brushstrokes and you’re ready to help us defeat evil mice across the galaxy.”

And the galaxy was saved, apparently, from a non-profit having a lightsaber battle, which obviously would have ended all the things for the Star Wars franchise. I don’t even understand what the dispute here is. It can’t be copyright, because the lightsabers to be used were Star Wars toys that were legally bought. I’m struggling to see how it could be trademark, as this use wasn’t commercial and the likelihood of any confusion that the free battle was something put on by Lucasfilm is likely null. Yet, because one side is big and the other is small, now we have a battle of space-cats. Great job, everyone.

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Companies: disney, lucasfilm, newmindspac

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Comments on “Lucasfilm Threatens And Threatens Non-Profit Over Lightsaber Battle Event”

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55 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

From what I understand, the only copyright or whatever there is on lightsabers is the word itself.

The concept of fancy space sword with a glowy blade the cuts and burns is too generic. It’s just not difficult to go sword -> magic sword with a blade made of fire/light -> high tech sword with a blade made of fire/light.

Likewise the sounds they make pretty much fall into the same category as explosions. You can copyright specific recordings of explosions, but everyone’s free to make and record their own explosive noises. And the Star Wars sound effect guy that created the lightsaber sound told people how he did it decades ago.

So these guys really should have been in the clear after the first change to light swords, etc. Lucasfilm’s lawyers just felt like being assholes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Jedi Lucas Corrupted by the Sith Lord Darth Wally

I still eschew the dark side and refuse to fund Disney. Quit that before the Big D swallowed up the Star Wars franchise.

Awakens was fun, since I didn’t pay for it. Silly, unoriginal, regurgitated fun, but visually appealing, nevertheless. Well worth the price of $0. I hold similar expectations for Rogue.

Let’s hope that this sort of public fan-throttling awakens the spirit of revolt in more people.

Ninja (profile) says:

‘lightsaber,’ ‘Jedi,’ ‘Sith’ and ‘The Force,

First go for some mockery by replacing the names by “not-a-lightsaber”, “not-a-Jedi” and so on.

Then do some wordplay with sightlaber, Deji, Hits and Fhe Torce.

Then the cat thing while explicitly and publicly telling people how Disney sucks because the thing has been going without incident and without ever harming Star Wars for 8 years but Disney had to ruin the fun.

Incidentally I’m having trouble seeing where such things harm Star Wars in the huge pile of money that the last movie made.

David says:

Re: Re:

Lucas probably trademarked the “lightsabers” it is selling as toys, and the fight imprudently was announced as a “lightsaber” battle. So people might be confused into thinking that one can do battle with the Lucas lightsabers.

I’m sort-of fuzzy about how this would dilute the trademark. But then if you entertain a pool of sharks, you cannot just feed them cabbages without topping them off with an occasional gardener.

SMS says:

Re: lightsabers

Since these toys are sold as either “Force FX light sabers” or “Ultimate lightsabers” depending on which series you get, calling an event which features them by their proper name should not be a copyright infringement. Unfortunately, the little non-profit does not have the capital to hire lawyers for a protracted battle for simple common sense.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Wow that's a loud bell. For whom does it toll?

Lucas was raised in the film-school era of directors, and influenced like that went easy on fan-works, and as a result it flourished.

And there was much worry about what was going to happen to the free reign of fans making not-for-profit once Disney took charge.

Most people when considering star wars fanfic imagine the Star Wars kid (the fat kid with the pole practicing his cool Darth Maul moves). They don’t imagine the Lightsaber Choreography Competitions or the Blacksheep Productions.

And now it’s all going to end.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Related: https://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/09/22

I often don’t understand why fans of a franchise accept this sort of behavior. They’ll tell you how mad it makes them, how stupid it is, but won’t do anything meaningful to push for change. They will keep buying the latest doodad with a logo forgetting that consumers have lots of power. Imagine if there was a campagin to boycott opening day of Rogue One, and people actually stuck to it.

Blah blah blah have to protect the trademarks blah blah… and they attacked a charity event. They could have cut a deal, gotten a blessing all predicated on it staying for charity… instead they come in and crush it, most likely because they were afraid of giving up the future chance to license a lightsaber event to some other charity that will pay them a fee & lots of free press.

Someday it would be nice to see consumers actually stand up and demand change and stick to it. The companies need us more than we need them, a product people refuse to touch until they change might get their attention. We deserve much better than beancounter & lawyers dreaming of hefty retainers are willing to allow.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Before it gets locked up too.

Also Relevant

I’m strongly tempted to see how difficult it would be to create a Cats In Space franchise that can be creative-commons’d, and populate it with expies from Star Wars, Star Trek, BSG, Stargate, Firefly, Dr. Who, Farscape, Babylon 5, Lost in Space, Space 1999, and any other locked-up franchise that I can think of.

Another Time, Another Galaxy…

Dangit!

Seriously hating IP minimalism and ownership culture right now.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They could have cut a deal, gotten a blessing all predicated on it staying for charity…

How hard or expensive would it have been to get involved? Give away Star Wars toys as prizes in a costume contest. Bring some props from the movies for people too ooh and aah over. Everyone comes off looking great, the charity is helped, people have more fun. Or failing that, like you said just send them a letter saying not to sell tickets or anything. But no, they had to go with lawyers. Twice.

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