George Lucas Takes Stormtrooper Copyright Fight to U.K. Supreme Court
LONDON -- A battle between George Lucas and British prop designer Andrew Ainsworth over replica Stormtrooper outfits has hit the U.K. Supreme Court, the highest civil action court in Britain.
Ainsworth, who built the original Stormtrooper costumes from sketches while working out of Shepperton studios on 1977’s Star Wars, has been selling the outfits online for years based on his original moulds.
Lucas has long said the designer does not own the copyright and has taken his case before judges here in a three-day-hearing to stop Ainsworth from making the costumes.
It’s good business for Ainsworth who has hit the headlines over the years for both his fight with Lucas and his ability to sell replica costumes for high sums. Back in 2004 he sold two original Stormtrooper helmets at auction for £60,000 ($97,000).
The supreme court heard Monday it was an "implied term" of the working agreement between Ainsworth and Lucas that Ainsworth "would not be entitled to retain copyright for the artifacts."
Lucas successfully sued Ainsworth for $20 million in the U.S. when he began selling replicas of the models in 2004. Ainsworth subsequently stopped selling the replicas stateside and the moviemaker’s case was thrown out on appeal in the U.K. in 2008 by judges in the Royal Court of Justice.
Justice Mann, according to archived reports, concluded the costumes had a "utilitarian purpose", and were industrial props rather than "works of art" so were not covered by British copyright laws.
In 2009 the ruling was upheld by Lord Justices Rix, Jacobs and Patenat the court of appeal.
The case continues with Lucas expected to use the full force of filmmaker friends including Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and Peter Jackson during the case.