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.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2016 @ 11:50am

    I'm more interested in the Cats in Space now than I was in the Lightbattle thing before.

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

  • icon
    Richard (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 12:00pm

    I already refused to watch Episode VII because of Disney nuking the Expanded Universe.

    It doesn't look like I'll have to look fare for reasons to avoid Rogue One.

    Disney: If you want my money, you're not doing a particularly good job at motivating me to give it to you..

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

    • icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 12:01pm

      Re:

      "I already refused to watch Episode VII because of Disney nuking the Expanded Universe."

      You know, I won't boycott it, but this was an issue for me too, particularly because there was no reason to simply ignore a great character like GA Thrawn. It's not like they had to do Zahn's trilogy as the next trilogy, but incorporating characters in wouldn't have been so hard...

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

      • identicon
        PRMan, 12 Apr 2016 @ 12:04pm

        Re: Re:

        Especially given the unwatchable retread plot and flat characters they DID come up with.

        I won't watch the next Star Wars movie, probably at all.

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

        • icon
          JoeCool (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 12:30pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Yeah, Ep7 was simply Ep4 with (mostly) new characters. Nothing original at all. The backstory for Ep7 is identical to Ep3. I guess if you can't write, just rip off earlier works.

          As to the article, you KNEW this was coming once Disney bought Lucasfilms. It was inevitable.

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

          • icon
            Ninja (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 12:47pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            True, all true. It's like giving candy to a toddler and expecting him not to go for it.

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

          • identicon
            Vel the Enigmatic, 12 Apr 2016 @ 2:42pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Care to elaborate how Ep7 was a New Hope rehashed, and how its backstory was identical to Episode 3?

            I've watched all of the original 6 + VII, and I honestly can't see how what you're stating makes any amount of sense. Especially the second statement.

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

            • identicon
              athe, 12 Apr 2016 @ 3:28pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Check out the "Honest Trailer" - it does a great job of summing it up...

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

              • icon
                JoeCool (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 7:25pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Yeah, there's any number of articles and videos pointing out the similarities between Ep 4 and 7. Honest Movie Trailers and Honest Game Trailers are both awesome.

                As to the backstory?

                Mysterious Dark Side baddy causes up-and-coming Jedi student to go bad.

                Fallen student kills all the other students.

                Head of Jedi goes into hiding.

                Fallen student and Mysterious Dark Side baddy form/reform empire and hunt down rebels.


                The only differences between Ep3 and Ep7 backstory are the names.

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

            • icon
              nasch (profile), 13 Apr 2016 @ 8:23am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Care to elaborate how Ep7 was a New Hope rehashed

              You didn't notice the part about the plucky rebels sneaking into the evil empire's giant planet killing space station and blowing it up from the inside?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2016 @ 12:40pm

        Re: Re:

        I can wait to see what they do when Mel Brooks finally gets round to searching for more money!

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

      • identicon
        Kalean, 12 Apr 2016 @ 4:34pm

        Re: Re:

        Thrawn is actually coming up in the Rebels series now; I doubt he'll be as epic as the original EU version, but here's hoping.

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 12:57pm

      Re:

      But they gave us planets with huge homing lasers! Awesome! And the exhaust port was (kind of) shielded!

      Evolution!

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

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 1:12pm

      Re:

      I'm not watching it because of the one-two punch of it being both Disney and an Abrams project. While I'll admit that Star Wars is something Abrams is probably well-suited to do, I still haven't forgiven him for Star Trek.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2016 @ 5:48pm

      Re:

      I just pirated it and I am glad I did, if I had paid money for it I would demanded a refund. It was a horrible star wars film in my eyes.

      A good science fiction film, but just a terrible star wars addition.

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

  • icon
    DB (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 12:19pm

    Could someone point me to the laws that supports "holds the rights to the characters, names and __CONCEPTS__".

    Do you use trademark to protect "concepts"? Do you patent the concept of a lightsaber? Do you copyright the single word itself?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2016 @ 1:59pm

      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.

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

    • icon
      Goyo (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 2:28pm

      Re:

      I think it's called the "I have an army of lawyers and you don't" law.

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

    • icon
      HegemonicDistortion (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 2:47pm

      Re:

      Of course not. Copyright only protects *expression*.

      However, the non-profit will buried under a blizzard of white (paper) like an outpost on Hoth for even deigning to fight it.

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

  • icon
    Violynne (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 12:21pm

    This is just a preview of what's going to come 5 years from now.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2016 @ 12:34pm

    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.

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

  • icon
    Berenerd (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 12:34pm

    Great, Jim Henson/Disney will now go after them because its too close to PIGS IN SPACE!

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

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 12:49pm

    CwF + RtB

    This is Big Copyright learning how to CwF + RtB.

    Censor Worthless Fans + Reason to Boycott

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 12:54pm

    ‘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.

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

  • icon
    The Groove Tiger (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 1:12pm

    "Battle of toy swords made by company that hates fans and sues them for mentioning the name of said toys."

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2016 @ 1:25pm

    Screw Disney, they should have continued with everything unchanged. I'd like to see them come and arrest 10,000 people and the huge media blow-back over the use of words like lightsaber at a fan gathering like this that had been held for years before with no issues whatsoever.

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

  • identicon
    David, 12 Apr 2016 @ 1:35pm

    Oooh, oh, oh, I got another one!

    I want to see the Douglas Adams Estate and IBM go at each other over the respective trademarks/copyrights/dandruff patterns of "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" and, fasten your seat belts, the confusingly similar "Space Bar".

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

  • identicon
    Rich, 12 Apr 2016 @ 1:47pm

    I was always surprised they never sued Hanna-Barbera for Thundarr the Barbarian.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2016 @ 1:49pm

    ....

    Litesaber, Gedi, Shith and the Phorce

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

  • identicon
    BS Simon, 12 Apr 2016 @ 2:00pm

    Make sure everybody knows what happened.

    The event organizers should prominently post notices around the event explaining the legal fight. And make announcements over the PA system about why they can't use lightsaber.

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

    • identicon
      ryuugami, 12 Apr 2016 @ 2:18pm

      Re: Make sure everybody knows what happened.

      Oh crap, only after reading your comment and thinking "they should make Disney the evil final boss of the event or something" that it dawned on me...

      "help us defeat evil mice across the galaxy"

      ... that they already DID.

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

  • icon
    DB (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 2:22pm

    There is a copyright on the word "lightsaber"?

    What about 37 C.F.R. � 202.1

    That seems to pretty clearly say that a single word, or even a short phrase, is not eligible for copyright.

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

    • identicon
      David, 12 Apr 2016 @ 3:35pm

      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.

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

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 13 Apr 2016 @ 8:27am

        Re: Re:

        Lucas probably trademarked the "lightsabers" it is selling as toys, and the fight imprudently was announced as a "lightsaber" battle.

        That still isn't trademark infringement. Descriptive use of a trademark is allowed. This is just a matter of who has more money to spend on lawyers.

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

    • identicon
      SMS, 17 Apr 2016 @ 3:39pm

      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.

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

  • identicon
    Kronomex, 12 Apr 2016 @ 3:50pm

    It has nothing to do with Lucasfilm. Lucasfilm is just a word that Disney can hide behind when it comes to money and profit. If The Farce Awakens is any indication of what Disney is going to do the Star Wars franchise then I will (like I did after they took over Marvel Comics)not be spending any more of my money on their product.

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

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 4:05pm

    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.

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

  • identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, 12 Apr 2016 @ 4:06pm

    Save me

    Lucasfilm just stopped an all out galatic war. If George Lucas or Disney wanted people to die by lightsabers they would use the Emperial Lord Commander to issue that order. But thankfully we are safe.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 4:56pm

    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.

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

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 5:25pm

      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.

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 13 Apr 2016 @ 8:31am

      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.

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

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 12 Apr 2016 @ 5:44pm

    Dear Lucasfilm...

    ...This is all I have to say.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2016 @ 5:46pm

    If it cannot be controlled by us, we must destroy it.

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

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 6:02pm

    THIS is the newspeak of the 21st century

    Participants raise lightsabre-like pseudo-weapons at a world record-setting battle in San Francisco in 2015

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

  • identicon
    goi, 12 Apr 2016 @ 8:04pm

    unless tpp/tisa/ttip and any attempt to pass a variation and/or smaller version of those three "trade deals" permanently dies I will never buy a disney product or watch their shit legally ever again.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Apr 2016 @ 1:38am

    And this is why we need copyright that last forever minus one day. /s

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Apr 2016 @ 4:38am

    Lift up thy head, oh thou Gates,
    and be thee lift up, thou everlasting Jobs,
    for the mouse of glory shall come in!
    Mouse of mice, and duck of ducks,
    for the mouse of glory shall come in!
    And he shall reign for ever and ever!

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

  • icon
    NeghVar (profile), 13 Apr 2016 @ 8:36am

    name changes

    Lightsabre to Plasma Sword
    Force to Farce
    Jedi to Kebi
    Sith to Hist

    If Disney continues, there is a plethora of previous court cases that ruled in favor that changing names, like above, is non-infringing. As for funding, contact the EFF. Such a case should be an easy win unless Disney bribes the judge.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Apr 2016 @ 11:22pm

      Re: name changes

      > unless Disney bribes the judge.

      Foregone conclusion, don't you think? How do you think we keep getting these copyright extensions?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Apr 2016 @ 9:36am

    The new Star Wars movie was horrible.

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

  • identicon
    Richard, 17 Apr 2016 @ 10:04am

    No Star Wars for me

    I was thinking about buying all the films. I've changed my mind after reading this. I won't be spending another penny on Star Wars.

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.