Lucas loses Supreme Court case (and his stormtrooper copyright)

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Dec 14, 2012

Back in 2009, George Lucas saw his lawsuit against prop designer Andrew Ainsworth, who manufactured replica stormtrooper helmets, squashed by the U.K.'s High Court, and so he appealed to a higher authority. (No, not Yoda.) But now the U.K. Supreme Court has delivered its own decision, which is: "Sorry, George!"

Andrew Ainsworth, the prop designer who made the original stormtrooper helmets for Star Wars (he was paid £20 per helmet and £385 per suit of armor back then), has been manufacturing replicas for the past eight years. Lucasfilm didn't like that, and has been trying to shut him down every since.

The case revolved around whether the stormtrooper design could be considered a work of art or merely a functional object. According to the BBC:

If Lucasfilm could convince the courts the 3D works were sculptures, they would be protected by copyright for the life of the author plus 70 years.

If not, the copyright protection would be reduced to 15 years from the date they were marketed, meaning it would have expired and Mr Ainsworth would be free to sell them.

Now that the High Court has sided with Ainsworth, he's free to continue selling all the stormtrooper helmets and suits he wants—for which he now charges £500 and £1,000, respectively.

Said Ainsworth, "I am proud to report that in the English legal system David can prevail against Goliath if his cause is right. If there is a Force, then it has been with me these past five years."

Ainsworth may be happy, but a bunch of high-powered Hollywood types are not—including Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and James Cameron, who sided with Lucasfilm in its suit.

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