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Imperial Storm Troopers Skirmish in Latest IP Battle

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the oh-those-wacky-imps dept.

Star Wars Prequels 261

fm6 writes "According to guardian.co.uk, George Lucas is suing the designer of the Imperial Stormtrooper armor. Andrew Ainsworth took the original molds he used to make the props for the movies, and has been using them to make outfits that sell for up to £1,800 (US$3,600) apiece. Ainsworth has countersued for a share of the $12 billion that Star Wars merchandise has generated since the first movie."

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Ungrateful Lucas? (5, Insightful)

Izabael_DaJinn (1231856) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996288)

Lucas Licensing called the prop designer a "fan" even though he created the Stormtroopers!

A spokesman for Lucas Licensing said: "We would never want to discourage fans from showcasing their enthusiasm for the movies. However, anyone who tried to profit from using our copyrights and trademarks without authorisation ... we will go after them."

This guy made one of the really cool things about Star Wars!! We all see the sort of nonsense Lucas came up with without this guy :-( Nothing in the newer 3 movies was there anything as memorable as Stormtroopers. Am I wrong??

TFA doesn't really say anything about the details of the original contract, but it seems ridiculous for someone with the money of God to come after a little guy who did so much to make his movies distinctive.

Re:Ungrateful Lucas? (3, Insightful)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996342)

I think that holders of copyrights and trademarks are obligated to protect them or else risk losing the copyright or trademark.

On the other hand, Lucas could make a sweetheart deal to license the trademarks and copyrights and not be at risk of losing the rights while also doing what sounds like the right thing by the person that contributed a huge amount to the Lucas "empire".

Re:Ungrateful Lucas? (5, Informative)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996378)

I think that holders of copyrights and trademarks are obligated to protect them or else risk losing the copyright or trademark.
trademark, yes. copyright, no.

Correct! (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22996842)

> trademark, yes. copyright, no.

You are correct in saying that you have to defend a trademark but do NOT have to defend a copyright, so I'll add on to that. IANAL, but unless there was a copyright assignment with a 'written memorandum of transfer' (I learned that one from SCO v. Novell; copyright law being federal, it applies to the whole USA), THE COSTUME MAKERS own whatever copyright there could be on the costume. Though I assume that Lucas owns the trademark. True, it could be a 'work for hire', but I think that only applies to individuals working for some company (and it would probably have to be spelled out), so I don't know.

I should also mention that while trademarks have to be defended, you are NOT required by law to be a dick when defending them (even if it seems that way). I think it was Second Life where they sent the "Get a First Life!" people a "Permit & Proceed" letter that let them know they were *okay* with using the trademark.

Lucas? Sounds like he believes he deserves all the money from anything related in any way to Star Wars, even if he did absolutely none of the work in creating it, simply because he came up with Star Wars to begin with.

So yeah, I'm not really going to take either side here, but I just want to say that if they had any sense, they'd come up with some kind of arrangement that doesn't involve suing each other, or there won't be any money left to fight over.

Re:Ungrateful Lucas? (0)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996406)

I think that they're allowed to protect them under law, but that that law is wrong.

Re:Ungrateful Lucas? (3, Informative)

Eivind (15695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22997206)

You may -think- so. But you're simply wrong.

There is absolutely nothing you can do, or fail to do, to "lose" a copyright.

Trademarks yes, those can be commoditized. But that is completely irrelevant as Lucas does not, infact, have a trademark on the design of the stormtrooper-armour.

Re:Ungrateful Lucas? (4, Insightful)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996366)

I thought it was pretty blatantly obvious by now that George Lucas is out to milk the Star Wars franchise for every dollar he can squeeze from it. This sort of thing would be par for the course, coming from him.

To an extent, that's not even necessarily a "bad thing". One of the moves Lucas made in the beginning which he's often admired/noted for was his shrewdness in securing the rights to royalties on all the toys and products (which Hollywood thought was worthless).

I think the information we're lacking here is the legal contract made between him and the set designer.... If it's clear that Lucas didn't allow the guy to go off and make money duplicating Stormtrooper outfits, then Lucas is in the right to sue him. Otherwise, I'd say he deserves to lose this case.

Re:Ungrateful Lucas? (2, Interesting)

silentphate (1245152) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996646)

The storm troopers were originally George Lucas idea in the first place. What was created by Ainsworth was depicted by what George Lucas wanted to see. I believe that still makes is property of Lucasfilm.

Re:Ungrateful Lucas? (4, Insightful)

dougmc (70836) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996812)

I'm not sure it's quite that cut and dried.


If I ask you to design some futuristic looking armor for some soldiers, and you do so without much more input from me beyond `I like it!', then you'd own the copyright on that. If we both worked on it equally, we'd probably both own the copyright.

If I paid you to design and make the design for the armor, then the contract would probably say who owned the copyright. If there's no written contract, then there's probably some law (`work for hire') that covers the situation, but I'm not so sure about that.

In this case, I would have expected that Lucas paid to have the design made, and there was probably a written contract and it probably assigned complete ownership of the final work (including the copyrights) to Lucas. But perhaps Lucas didn't fully lawyer up and there's some holes in this theory ...

Re:Ungrateful Lucas? (4, Informative)

Kierthos (225954) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996892)

Unless I did it as part of a "work for hire" agreement. If he (Ainsworth) did the work under such an agreement, then he doesn't own the copyright (or any creation rights) on the armor he originally created for Lucas.

Re:Ungrateful Lucas? (1, Insightful)

ecavalli (1216014) | more than 6 years ago | (#22997036)

Certainly, but the guy's attempt at countersuing is either designed to point out how idiotic the whole suit is or he's exactly as greedy as Lucas.

I've been trying to see things from his point of view, but no matter how hard I try, there's just no way to justify giving the guy any part of the merchandise profit from Star Wars just because he's created some replica armor.

It's akin to a fan fiction author suing for royalties on a series he feels he somehow made more popular by writing a vaguely related piece of literature.

Re:Ungrateful Lucas? (5, Insightful)

ecavalli (1216014) | more than 6 years ago | (#22997108)

Sigh.

This is what I get for learning due diligence from /.

Since the guy was the one who originally created the armor for the films, it all depends on what the original contract said. If it isnt specifically stated that Lucas owns the design of the whole thing, I think the guy does deserve a bit of the royalties, at least as far as they relate to the actual Stormtrooper armor.

That said, I'd be surprised if Lucas wasn't clever enough even then to write in bits of the contract that state that he owns the whole thing.

I'd be shocked if this actually goes anywhere.

Re:Ungrateful Lucas? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22997076)

If I ask you to design some futuristic looking armor for some soldiers, and you do so without much more input from me beyond `I like it!', then you'd own the copyright on that. If we both worked on it equally, we'd probably both own the copyright.


What if there was already concept art [df.lth.se] ?

Re:Ungrateful Lucas? (1)

rgmoore (133276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996740)

Lucas Licensing called the prop designer a "fan" even though he created the Stormtroopers!

A spokesman for Lucas Licensing said: "We would never want to discourage fans from showcasing their enthusiasm for the movies. However, anyone who tried to profit from using our copyrights and trademarks without authorisation ... we will go after them."

I don't think that was his meaning, though he could have expressed himself better. The idea is that they aren't objecting to fans wanting to have and wear their own Star Wars costumes and props. What they object to is somebody selling Star Wars stuff without giving them a cut.

Re:Ungrateful Lucas? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22996798)

The guy can just move to China and make StrommTreepors suits. They have Polystation consoles, Hike shoes, Pmua jackets, Nckia phones, so I don't think that would be hard to create a StrommTreepors suits line...

Re:Ungrateful Lucas? (1)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996904)

"Nothing in the newer 3 movies was there anything as memorable as Stormtroopers. Am I wrong??"

For better or worse I think that Jar Jar Binx is more memorable.

mmmm ... for worse. Definitely for worse. Still, more memorable.

Does anybody know what the armor does? (4, Funny)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 6 years ago | (#22997210)

It certainly doesn't stop blasters or light sabers. What use is it?

Why pay 3600$ fo this... (5, Funny)

Datamonstar (845886) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996314)

when you can just use a RepRap?

Re:Why pay 3600$ fo this... (3, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996612)

I hope this can be the beginning of a new /. meme.

How much (1)

Saija (1114681) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996318)

does it cost to get a girl with a suit like this: http://webzoom.freewebs.com/basementnightclub/Stormtrooper%20Bride.jpg [freewebs.com]
;)

Re:How much (4, Funny)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996418)

does it cost to get a girl with a suit like this: http://webzoom.freewebs.com/basementnightclub/Stormtrooper%20Bride.jpg [freewebs.com]
$4,300.00 at last quote.

Re:How much (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22996552)

Buy now and get a girl of equal or better quality for only $200 more! Thats right, call now and get an 80% discount on the girl 1-800-523-3245 thats 1800-523-3245 terms and conditions may apply this offer not valid in Washington DC please consult your physician before purchasing this or any other part of a complete breakfast

Re:How much (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22996500)

About $300/hour. But it is only for an "erotic massage" while your "masseuse" is wearing a costume. Anything else that happens is between two consenting adults...

Re:How much (1)

Carthag (643047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996666)

She looks like a bobble-head.

Re:How much (1)

kylehase (982334) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996764)

Na, I'd prefer the princess Leia's bikini instead.

Damn, while looking for a picture I came across this [usatoday.com] ... ruined my whole image.

Damn you google image search!

OW! MY EYES! (1)

plover (150551) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996868)

You bastard!

I can never un-see that now!

Re:How much (2, Funny)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22997234)

Isn't she a little short for a storm trooper?

Biter bitten (-1, Flamebait)

russotto (537200) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996320)

I'm guessing Lucas screwed this guy in the original contract, and now he figures that he can do the same thing right back. Unfortunately, he's about to find out that our court system is designed to allow the big guy to screw the little guy, not vice versa. (except class action suits where lawyers screw both sides but one or two little guys can make out big, but that's another story)

Re:Biter bitten (1)

edlinfan (1131341) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996358)

I'm sorry, did you even read the summary?

George Lucas is suing the designer of the Imperial Stormtrooper armor.

...not the other way around.

Re:Biter bitten (5, Funny)

Duhavid (677874) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996478)

So, let me make sure I have this straight....

The Imperial Stormtrooper armour is *not* suing the designer of George Lucas?

Re:Biter bitten (1)

kylehase (982334) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996776)

The Imperial Stormtrooper armour is *not* suing the intelligent designer of George Lucas?
Fixed that for you.

Re:Biter bitten (1)

king-manic (409855) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996844)

I'm sorry, did you even read the summary?

       

George Lucas is suing the designer of the Imperial Stormtrooper armor.
...not the other way around.
You missed the bit where the designer was counter suing.

Re:Biter bitten (4, Insightful)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996362)

RTFA: A california court ruled in favor or Lucasfilms, but since the designer lives in the UK, Lucasfilms has to sue there. Good luck getting a UK court to go along with the same tort bullshit the US passes off as civil law/justice.

Re:Biter bitten (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996622)

Good luck getting a UK court to go along with the same tort bullshit the US passes off as civil law/justice.
Well considering that the USA's legal foundation was copied almost wholesale from the UK, maybe you should blame them for the "tort bullshit the US passes off as civil law/justice."

Re:Biter bitten (5, Funny)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996960)

The US has had plenty of time to mutilate it.

Just like how you guys have mutilated the English language. :)

Re:Biter bitten (1)

azakem (924479) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996878)

This isn't traditional tort, it's copyright/trademark. As the US and UK participate in a number of international IP treaties, there is a good possibility that a UK court would be obligated to respect the decision of the US court. IANAL, some lawyer want to clear that up?

Re:Biter bitten (5, Insightful)

belmolis (702863) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996388)

That's a bit too cynical. We don't have all the information here. If Lucas went hired Ainsworth and told him what he wanted and Ainsworth developed the detailed design and the molds, then the basic idea was Lucas's and the design was a work for hire, the rights to which belong to Lucas. It's just like when an engineer designs a chip for Intel - the design belongs to Intel, not the engineer.

It is possible that the arrangment was different, e.g. that the designer came up with the design and offered it to Lucas, in which case the rights would depend on what sort of contract they entered into (that is, whether Ainsworth merely licensed Lucas to use the design or whether he sold the rights outright), but the fact that a court has already ruled in Lucas' favor suggests a scenario like the one above. If so, it isn't a case of the courts screwing the little guy - it is a standard case of work for hire.

Re:Biter bitten (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22996594)

It would be extremely unusual for a costume designer (or art department, or set designer, or special effects model builder or whatever) to work for anything but "for hire" or to be able to claim any ownership of their work afterwards. Since this was the 70's and Star Wars was not expected to be the blockbuster hit most likely the guy did the work for a few thousand bucks. There could always be exceptions, like HR Giger, but that's extremely rare and only when the guy's a big name already and can call his own shots.

Still, even if this is the case, I don't think he got screwed by not making millions for his designs. I mean, that's the nature of the job, and these productions would collapse under their own weight if everyone who has any input could claim a piece of ownership.

That said this kind of thing isn't all that unusual-- costume makers selling replicas of their designs to fans. I guess it's a little different to be selling molded stormtrooper armor instead of a copy of Galadriel's gown, but still, it's generally accepted as a perk that they can make a little side business out of it, assuming the products are custom orders and not mass produced for costume shops.

So Lucas is probably in the right, legally, but a complete dick morally. Big surprise.

Re:Biter bitten (1)

Jack9 (11421) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996690)

That's a bit too cynical. We don't have all the information here. If Lucas went hired Ainsworth and told him what he wanted and Ainsworth developed the detailed design and the molds, then the basic idea was Lucas's and the design was a work for hire, the rights to which belong to Lucas.

Even if THAT were the case (which is probably isn't), Ainsworth would still hold the rights to the design. You need a contract stating that the intellectual property is yours, especially when dealing with foreign nationals.

It's just like when an engineer designs a chip for Intel - the design belongs to Intel, not the engineer.

Er, in reality you have to sign an employment agreement for that to be true, depending on where the agreement is made.

Re:Biter bitten (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 6 years ago | (#22997178)

Er, in reality you have to sign an employment agreement for that to be true, depending on where the agreement is made.

And do you think that either Intel or George Lucas is so ignorant as not to know the law of the jurisdiction in which it operates and arrange the necessary agreements? The fact is that it in many industries designs are routinely set up as work for hire so that they will belong to the employer. We don't know whether Lucas did this, but it is quite possible that he did, in which case he owns the rights and there is nothing screwy going on here.

Bzzt! Wrong analogy! (1)

celtic_hackr (579828) | more than 6 years ago | (#22997010)

Here's a better analogy.

King Louis XII hires Galileo to build 50 statues of a Roman Gladiator. The basic idea is King Louis', but the design is the artistic expression of Galileo. Galileo then builds a mold, and makes crushed Marble and concrete statues of his own artistic realization and delivers them to King Louis. Galileo discovers that the statues are a fantastic hit with the royal courtiers, and proceeds to make numerous replicas for sale. Yes, Galileo was hired to make X number of some artform or an artistic design for some artform. Unless, the contract turns over the the rights to that artwork, then the artist is free to make other copies. This is does not on the surface look like a case of work for hire.

Although you are dead on right about we don't know enough details. Depending on how one defines the Imperial Storm Trooper armor, it could be: art, clothing (which can also be a type of art), a design, a purchase of a defined quantity of a product (i.e. 50 helmets for $70 ea). We don't know why the CA court found in Lucas' favor, perhaps it was a default judgment? Perhaps, Lucas produced the copyright, or the contract. We could argue one way or the other till the cows come home, but the simple truth is the stupid reporter neglects to fill us in with the 5Ws, which are so essentially necessary in order to draw any intelligent conclusion ...

Oh wait this is /. ...

Scratch that last comment.

Re:Bzzt! Wrong analogy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22997106)

What I want to know is how did Louis XII hire Galileo?!

Re:Biter bitten (1)

blind monkey 3 (773904) | more than 6 years ago | (#22997026)

but the fact that a court has already ruled in Lucas' favor suggests a scenario like the one above.
No offence but it was a US court that ruled on it... a California court.... I think I'll wait to see what another court makes of it before I form an opinion on whether the court screwed this particular "little guy".

Re:Biter bitten (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#22997252)

who gives a fuck if lucas owns the rights or not? this bloke is probably making less then 100K turnover per year on this little side show he is running. why the fuck does lucas even care if someone else is making such an insignificant profit?

i'll tell you why, because he's a typical hollywood money grubber. sometimes laws are just plain wrong

Re:Biter bitten (5, Interesting)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996476)

I'm guessing Lucas screwed this guy in the original contract,
According to the UK Daily Telegraph there was no contract: [telegraph.co.uk]

Mr Lucas, who wrote the screenplay and directed the 1977 film, is understood to have hired Mr Ainsworth through intermediaries in 1976, but it is claimed no formal contract was put in place. The designer received just £30,000 for his work.
I wonder if the award in the US was a default judgment?

Re:Biter bitten (1)

pokerdad (1124121) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996660)

but it is claimed no formal contract was put in place.

Well, I think its a given who is claiming that.

Its certainly possible this is the case, and 30 years passed might make it more difficult to prove even if they it did exist. But having said that I find it highly improbable that so much money changed hands without a contract.

Re:Biter bitten (2, Insightful)

davmoo (63521) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996732)

Believe it or not, and even now as well as 30 years ago, quite a bit of business is conducted without formal contracts. And for big dollar amounts. In the UK I can't say for sure, but in most US states, a verbal agreement is binding...but it then boils down to who what to who and when they said it. But as this case points out, its always best to get paper. And that's true even when all parties are "friends"...its amazing how fast money can change that friendship.

Re:Biter bitten (1)

Miseph (979059) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996962)

Of course, this case is hardly a shining example of that last sentence... it's hard to call 30 years "fast" change for a working relationship.

Re:Biter bitten (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22997054)

I don't know. I have had a working relationship change in 30 minutes. It involved alcohol and wasn't at the workplace, but she still won't talk to me.

Cue obligatory... (5, Funny)

Mongoose Disciple (722373) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996330)

I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further.

Re:Cue obligatory... (1)

s0litaire (1205168) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996354)

in a Yoda like voice: "Has Begun, The Clone armour wars have"

He was hired to do a job (0)

CA_Jim (786327) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996346)

He was hired to do a job. He created the items to fit Lucas' vision. It wasn't as if he created them and them sold them to Lucas. Did he negotiate for a piece of the profits then? No, he took a straight payment.

Re:He was hired to do a job (2, Interesting)

fatalwall (873645) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996410)

I have to agree with you here. As a consultant i often subcontract work out and make contracts with these people before the work begins. When they are done making artwork or code that i did not want to make myself the deal is that i own the work. If they wanted the ability to use the work for others i would consider working a deal with them however once the contract has been completed and all the work becomes mine. Same thing here i feel. The biggest part is the base idea came from Lucas. He wouldnt have even made the mold in the first place if it wasnt for lucas hiring him.

Re:He was hired to do a job (2, Informative)

nmb3000 (741169) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996414)

He was hired to do a job. He created the items to fit Lucas' vision. It wasn't as if he created them and them sold them to Lucas.

How do you know this? I actually RTFA and while I might have missed it, they seemed pretty light on pertinent details like this. I would imagine that it's quite common for a studio to outright purchase prop designs and rights the same way they do pretty much everything else related to a film. If the guy from Weta who created Andúril started selling exact duplicates of the sword don't you think NewLine would call him up for a chat?

It seems pretty straightforward - if Lucas bought the prop design then this guy is at fault. If Lucas only paid for him to come up with a design then it comes to a question of can the Stormtrooper be trademarked as part of the franchise? How about replica lightsabers?

Re:He was hired to do a job (1)

fatalwall (873645) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996436)

replica light-sabers have to be licensed. Its like anything else out there. If you want to sell mutant turtles you have to buy the rights from the company who created them(or the current owner of the franchise)

Re:He was hired to do a job (4, Insightful)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996432)

He was hired to do a job.
The particularities of employment contracts vary. Unless you are privy to the specifics of the agreement, you, an uninformed goof on Slashdot, aren't really in any position to say.

Re:He was hired to do a job (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996462)

The particularities of employment contracts vary. Unless you are privy to the specifics of the agreement, you, an uninformed goof on Slashdot, aren't really in any position to say.


Privy to information? Hah, on /. you are lucky if they even read the article.

Not like it will prevent 100+ comments.

(My take: it will depend on exactly what is written in the contract as to who owns the copyright on the armor.)

It can get even more interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22996616)

It will depend who did the design. The copyright will rest with whoever did the design and cannot be transferred without an explicit writing to that effect. (eg a copyright transfer or a work for hire agreement in the contract.) Simple enough if one party did the design and can prove it. What if there was a degree of cooperation with elements coming from both sides?

Ah well, in any case it is likely to be a big win for the lawyers

Re:He was hired to do a job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22997162)

".......Unless you are privy to the specifics of the agreement, you, an uninformed goof on Slashdot, aren't really in any position to say."

Since when has that stopped any of us from tendering our opinion?

Re:He was hired to do a job (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22996472)

By default independent contractors under English law own their work. Assuming this guy was contracted rather than employed, unless otherwise specified by a contract he owns copyright.

If, as the article says, Lucas bought the helmets by the unit already manufactured that would imply that the guy was an independent contractor. If the guy was an employee he would have been paid at a flat rate and it would have been irrelevant to him home many Lucas then had manufactured. If you buy a dozen prints of an artist's work that doesn't mean you own the original.

Re:He was hired to do a job (1)

wellingj (1030460) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996652)

You, Sir, deserve some mod points.

Re:He was hired to do a job (0, Redundant)

Tsujiku (902045) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996712)

I agree.

In other news... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22996348)

Kaiser Wilhelm II is suing them both for use of the term "Stormtrooper".

Whats in the contract? (4, Insightful)

mckinnsb (984522) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996372)

If the contract signs over all work to Lucas Film, this guy may be in a bit of a bind. If it doesn't, Lucas Film is in a bind.

I bet you two different contracts are presented.

Logical mode off: Its a goddamn Storm Trooper Costume! He was making them for 3k! You make millions of dollars! Go home!

Re:Whats in the contract? (1)

nihaopaul (782885) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996456)

you'd have to be pretty stupid to sign over all the original work in a contract if you've been contracted to produce a final product, its a bit like flash, clients either dont read the contracts very closely or they think they own original art work when they only own the final product.

i work as a designer and get this problem every time, they either ask for the original files and i reply that its outside of the scope of the contract or i try to explain to them in a simple term they might understand.. "When you buy windows do you own the original code used to create the system? What makes you think this is any different?"

Reason its this way is that i reuse a lot of code from project to project or i write some hot script i would love to use myself, its imperative i retain ownership ad protect my work from modifications, of course i have a value on the work if they want to buy ownership.

That's an interesting business model (4, Informative)

caitsith01 (606117) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996524)

So you do work creating IP for people and then refuse to give them the rights to the IP that you create? Let me know how that works out for you.

I think you will find that the majority of companies who get design work done by independent contractors would have watertight agreements transferring all of the relevant intellectual property to them, for obvious reasons, i.e., that people like you can't then attempt to weasel around their rights with dubious contractual terms and thereby hold them hostage.

Honestly, I am generally all in favour of limiting the IP rights of companies, but when you do work for a business creating IP and then try to suggest that it's somehow reasonable and equitable that you retain the rights to all of the "original art work" that goes into it then you are being borderline dishonest. Certainly it's reasonable for you to retain IP you create which is not specific to that job; but it would be entirely unreasonable to refuse to relinquish the rights to the 99% finished "work in progress" version of a website, for instance.

The Windows example is silly, because Windows is not uniquely crafted to each user's requirements (if only), it is a generic piece of IP that is licensed and relicensed.

Re:That's an interesting business model (4, Informative)

lakeland (218447) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996624)

It seems to be that way where I work.

We contract companies to write software for us, but then they retain full ownership of that software.

It means we often don't get to see the source code, and even if we do, we are not permitted to modify it or to get any other company to extend the software, etc.

I have to admit, I find it foolish to enter into such agreements. When I pay for work I expect to receive IP, but such situations clearly do exist. Other people must just not care so much...

Re:That's an interesting business model (1)

nihaopaul (782885) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996876)

When it comes down to design the client owns the 'final work' not the work created to get the final product, work is licensed for the use it is intended and modifications to it are not allowed, this is typical business in any country.

this is the difference in "work for hire" and "contracted work". when working with an outside agency for instance the client has a lower overhead, they don't pay licensing for software, computers, operating system, salaries, insurance for the company or people working on the product which in turn gives them a lower cost, but they dont own the work used to create the final product.

heres an example, client comes to me with video and expects it to be on their site in an accessible format, i license the software to create the work in an accessible format, do they own the software i licensed? its the same as work used to create the final product and the code used in the work. again they can pay 4x-8x the price per month and hire someone to work for them under a contract and own all of the work or contract it out where the contract stipulates the deliverables.

Works well, done in every agency in every country.

heres anouther one, client hires a photography studio, they require final results, now, do they own the camera used to create the final work? do they even own the full rights to the work to use anywhere.. the short answer is no, not unless its stipulated in the contract.

remember when dealing with people that have no clue about an industry but need something from it you need to find a way to explain things on their level, most people understand the windows analogy i use.

Re:That's an interesting business model (1)

LaskoVortex (1153471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996912)

Reason its this way is that i reuse a lot of code from project to project
[Windows] is a generic piece of IP that is licensed and relicensed.

Let me say the same thing yet again in a different way, but attempt to disagree with you by saying exactly what you said, but different and yet trying to make the exact opposite point, but not failing miserably because I will actually support my point:

You are wrong because the software would be general use and reusable so IP rights would need to be retained by the author.

Re:That's an interesting business model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22996966)

In that art world this is definately not the case. You hire me for a commercial, you get a commercial. You want the assets, it's going to cost you. This is standard operating procedure. You want a sculpture, you get a sculpture, but not the mold.

Re:Whats in the contract? (1)

rgmoore (133276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996800)

you'd have to be pretty stupid to sign over all the original work in a contract if you've been contracted to produce a final product,

It depends on what you're designing and how much they're willing to pay. If you're just customizing a basic framework that you expect to re-use on future projects, it doesn't make much sense to sell the original work- unless they're willing to pay you enough to redevelop the framework for those future project, of course. If you're making things one off that you're unlikely to be able to sell again, it doesn't make sense to make ownership of the design a sticking point.

And that assumes you have the leverage to negotiate your favored position. If you work as an employee rather than an independent contractor, you won't have much choice. Your contract will almost certainly give full rights to all your work to your employer.

Re:Whats in the contract? (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996504)

It's possible there is no written contract.

Maybe he just sold them the physical props, made to order, for cash, with no contract up front.

Clone Wars (1)

ryu1232 (792127) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996408)

Seems the Emperor has a problem when the clones are not under his control.....

Merchandising Rights (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996460)

I've watched documentaries and read books about Star Wars... one of the genius moves Lucas made was to make the studios sign away all the merchandising rights to him. This was before merchandising was a big thing (Lucas helped make it big!).

The question is is do those clauses extend to sold props and replicas of props...? IANAL so don't ask me.

Re:Merchandising Rights (2, Insightful)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996520)

Ugh I'm tired. A correction.

Obviously the prop designer is not bound by that specific contract, but he might have had an employee contract or the prop/mold he used might still technically belong to the studio or Lucas or something. Obviously the courts in California found something but the article is light in this area.

I'm waiting... (4, Funny)

sootman (158191) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996498)

... for the Special Edition lawsuit, where Andrew sues first.

Re:I'm waiting... (1)

esocid (946821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996546)

Wait, is Andrew is Han? I believe both he and Greedo were pretty shady characters in the books. Can't imagine who to compare Lucas to here.

Re:I'm waiting... (3, Funny)

Zerth (26112) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996696)

Duh, Jabba. Have you seen Lucas lately? He's been packing them on eat those little froggies.

I felt a disturbance in the courts... (1)

Snufu (1049644) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996544)

as if a million lawyers filed suit at once, and were enriched.

not really IP (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996568)

That's not really IP. It's an actual, physical mould making actual physical objects. This is barely about the stormtrooper image itself.

hollywood accounting (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996588)

It sounds like one of these vague cases where everyone is fighting over the money, even though there is more than enough money to go around. It is why the term "Hollywood accounting" exists, and why so many thinks that the average hollywood executive makes the average investment banker look like mother teresa.

In any case, the article makes it appear that Lucas just bought several dozen of the costumes, and did not in fact commission the design nor purchase the rights. OTOH, the designer sold the costumes knowing full well what they were to be used for.If this is hte fact pattern, then Lucas asking for money would be like UA asking BMW to pay a royalty for right to produce cars.

In the end I hope that Lucas has to pay a gob of cash for wasting the time of court to satisfy his greed.

Re:hollywood accounting (1)

wellingj (1030460) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996692)

Who says he would be satisfied if he won?

IP / Contract? (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996674)

If no contract existed (which, judging by the posts here, it didn't), then as far as I'm concerned Lucas is in the wrong here.

Lucas bought the suits. The suits, not the designs, and certaintly not the rights to the designs.

Imagine if this prop guy wins. He has a LOT of past royalties he could potentially collect on - movie posters, action figures, the movies themselves, the three or ten versions of the movie on VHS/DVD/Blu-Ray that already exist and the next dozen or so that will be released in the ensuing decade.

Laches (1)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996708)

IANAL, but I'm pretty sure Ainsworth's claims of damages going back to 1977 is a textbook case of laches [wikipedia.org] and will probably be dismissed on those grounds.

I'm sure this guy has done just fine (1)

Redbaran (918344) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996788)

I've read above that this guy was paid "just" £30,000 for his work. Now, even if that's adjust for inflation and he was paid less than that, I still wouldn't feel sorry for him. If the only thing you put on your resume for the rest of your life is "Designed Storm Troopers Costume", then your career is made! I'm sure he's been reaping the benifits of his work indirectly ever since. Sure, it's not as much as Lucas himself, but he's gotten his share of the pie. He shouldn't be allowed to sell something that's not his, and when he sold the design to Lucas, it stopped being his, end-of-story.

Re:I'm sure this guy has done just fine (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996890)

<blockquote>and when he sold the design to Lucas, it stopped being his, end-of-story.</blockquote>
<p>I don't see any mention of him selling the design.</p>
<p>That's the essential question, then: Did he sell the design, or did he just make the costumes to order, without a contract? If the former, Lucas owns them. If the latter, he owns them, though I doubt very much he should really sue Lucas for anything.</p>

Re:I'm sure this guy has done just fine (2, Insightful)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996914)

I've read above that this guy was paid "just" £30,000 for his work. Now, even if that's adjust for inflation and he was paid less than that, I still wouldn't feel sorry for him. If the only thing you put on your resume for the rest of your life is "Designed Storm Troopers Costume", then your career is made! I'm sure he's been reaping the benefits of his work indirectly ever since. Sure, it's not as much as Lucas himself, but he's gotten his share of the pie. He shouldn't be allowed to sell something that's not his, and when he sold the design to Lucas, it stopped being his, end-of-story.
Technically, he was not an employee, nor did he have any contract. The whole thing hinges on verbal agreements made so long ago neither could possibly remember the details. Under the circumstances any sane court would need to assume no assignment was made in the verbal agreement, but bar the counter-suit under latches. Lucas may well have a valid trademark case though, as the storm-trooper design may be subsumed into to overall storm-trooper visual trademark, but base design itself it almost certainly not owned by Lucas. A possible end result may be that neither may produce merchandise featuring the storm-trooper design without each others consent from this point forward. The obvious solution toi that would be cross-licensing the design rights for the rights to produce the storm trooper outfits.

why? (4, Funny)

blakecraw (1235302) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996790)

The design wasn't even any good. One blaster shot and they're finshed!

Re:why? (1)

prestomation (583502) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996988)

Who the hell modded this insightful?

Re:why? (1)

toby34a (944439) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996994)

The design wasn't even any good. One blaster shot and they're finshed!
Or, even better, being hit with twigs, branches, and rocks by pint-sized furry beings.

Re:why? (1)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22997200)

Worse yet they couldn't hit the ground if they dropped their guns while wearing them. They were kind of channeling Ned Kelly only the armor couldn't stop a blaster round let alone a bullet. They probably would have been better off fighting in "G" Strings so they could at least hit what they aimed at. I guess visually it wouldn't have been as cool having a bunch of guys running around dressed like skinny Sumo Wrestlers with guns. That's an image that sticks with you for all the wrong reasons.

Here it comes... (0, Troll)

Rai (524476) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996882)

Cue the whining fanboys to cry some more over the prequels.

Next: Tron Guy (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996900)

I bet the Tron Guy [tronguy.net] is next. Spandex styling will be set back 20 years.

Protect your IP Addresses (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996926)

And here was me thinking that we'd finally run out of IPv4 addresses and that the storm troopers had been deployed to sort the problem out.

It depends on their contract. (1)

Aqua OS X (458522) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996936)

All in all, it depends on the contract they signed. If this guy signed away his rights, he's screwed... and if he didn't, he probably has a case.

Re:It depends on their contract. (1)

adona1 (1078711) | more than 6 years ago | (#22997070)

And if he wins, does that mean he can sue Lucas again for copyright infringment in episodes II & III? That clone armour seems to be a derivative work, even if it was retconned into the franchise :)

He's a lawsuit-crazy bastard... (4, Informative)

Vthornheart (745224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22996946)

This isn't the first frivolous lawsuit he's done lately. He tried to sue the pants off of this warehouse company a year ago or so because he kept his storage facility in bad condition and one of his R2D2 props got moldy.

I don't know the details of it, but my grandmother in law works for a sister company of the warehouse that was getting sued. Apparently it was enough that if it hadn't been dismissed, it would've sent them into immediate bankruptcy.

Uh Oh (1)

P1aGu3ed (979864) | more than 6 years ago | (#22997018)

Firstly IANAL etc. Now, if Lucasfilm has the copyright to the Stormtrooper (its a Lucas creation), and Ainsworth patents the Stormtrooper moulds (the Ainsworth creation) ... what happens then? Now, its especially entertaining when you have Mr Copyright lawyer introduced to Mr Patent lawyer. The irresistable force meets the immovable object ... Nahhh, lets not go there.

Appears that Lucas doesnt own the rights. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22997092)

From the article,

Ainswoth said: 'As far as I am concerned I am the original maker and I'm using the original moulds.'

The prop designer was recruited to design the outfits in 1976 and sold the firsts 50 helmets to Lucas for £35 each.


It would appear that Lucas was buying a product, if he had intended to retain the rights to this product why didnt he purchase the molds?

Where he went wrong (1)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22997116)

It sounds like Lucasfilm may have screwed up and not gotten a contract. That said where the guy screwed up was using original molds. They are technically the property of Lucasfilm since they paid for them. He may have been in his rights reproducing the design but not using the molds. I used to know John Stears back in the early 80s. He told about Lucas getting him to sign over the rights to R2D2 and the land speeder for the promise of more work. Rights up until then had no value so he opted for the additional work. Well Lucas never hired him again and he figured by that time he had lost 8 mill in licensing fees. Lucas had all the key people sign over all rights after the film was finished. I doubt Lucas can claim that there was prior art since most of the "production" art was actually done after the film was finished so the design probably was his. In truth he should have himself sued decades ago for a cut of the rights but he was a nice guy and didn't. Ironically he probably was within his rights doing that but striking new casts from the old molds he didn't have the right to do. What the court should do is fine him for the amount of props sold and give that money to Lucasfilm but then award him the rights to the design and make Lucas pay him the lost royalties which would amount to 1000X what the suits brought.
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