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.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.
“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.
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.