Yes. In the UK anyway. The UK Supreme Court has ruled that because the iconic garb was created as an industrial prop, the rights expired after 15 years.

Sometimes you can fight the Empire and win.


  1. Good! I’m glad he lost. He has all the money in the world already–who is he to step in the way of popular culture and the fannish right to express themselves and have fun? He didn’t really create the Stormtrooper outfit. Some employee in Special Effects did it for him.

  2. Hmm, this calls for a bit of explanation. It’s not that Lucasfilm have lost the rights; it’s that the rights in the design documents can’t be infringed by making actual Stormtrooper helmets to that design. There are special rules dealing with this (to avoid an overlap with the law that deals with industrial design documents).

  3. It seems to be just for the purposes of creating actual replicas of the costume.

    I don’t think this means anyone can make Stormtrooper toys, mugs, shirts, etc.

    And I think it also only applies in the UK.

  4. this is jawdropping. So what do people think. Is 15 years the appropriate copyright term? Or is it 70 years? 140 years?

  5. According to the judgment, George Lucas specified “fascist white-armoured suits”; an artist called Ralph McQuarrie made drawings based on that concept; and a guy called Nick Pemberton made the original clay models of the helmet, which were revised based on Lucas’ input. The defender in the UK action, Andrew Ainsworth, was the guy who actually MADE the original helmets based on their design.

    Anyone who really wants to read the judgment can find it at http://www.supremecourt.gov.uk/docs/UKSC_2010_0015_Judgment.pdf, but be warned that most of it is about the meaning of “sculpture” in the context of copyright law (and most of the rest is about an obscure jurisdictional issue). Most people will probably be more interested in the first instance judgment, which has the detailed evidence, and an Appendix containing the original design sketches and photos of the original models: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2008/1878.html

  6. Wow, talk about being a greedy little knub. All those fans who make those replica Stormtrooper outfits and celebrate at every cosplay comic con are the fans that put Lucas where he’s at today…but whatever. I think he’s just sore because his last trilogy sucked big time.

  7. Wow. I hope none of you get your copyrights ripped off one day. Sure Lucas has a ton of cash, but he created Star Wars. It was all done under him. Under his, umm…”direction.”

    The entertainment industry needs giants like Lucas or Metallica to fight for the rights of creators.

    Sure, all the cosplay guys and the 501st did put Lucas where he is today, but why should some other guy make money off it?

    Let’s say you created a character in a comic and some other guy started SELLING costumes of that character, and you got no money from that…you’re telling me you wouldn’t be pissed?

    But then again, and I’m sure this is an unpopular view, I don’t get it how an artist in “Artist’s Alley” can sell a Spiderman or Superman drawaing when they didn’t create those characters.

  8. Uh yeaah, I’d say that’s a fringe view. There’s a difference between selling original art and pirating materials. Warhol didn’t infringe on Campbell’s trademark.

  9. Campbell’s chose not to go after Warhol for copyright infringement. And after Warhol’s death, the Andy Warhol Foundation obtained a license from Campbell’s so prints, posters, etc. of Warhol’s soup paintings could be produced.

  10. “Let’s say you created a character in a comic and some other guy started SELLING costumes of that character, and you got no money from that…you’re telling me you wouldn’t be pissed?”

    Your analogy only works if the “some other guy” was a designer involved in creating the design for said character.

    Also, you cannot speak for all artists. Music or otherwise. Plenty of musicians think Metallica was wrong and are for sharing of music.

  11. Scan—I hear what you are saying about the guy being involved in the design. But from what I understand, making the Stormtrooper suits was “Work for hire.”

    It’s like handing over the rights to Superman to the guy who did the color seps.

    I don’t speak for other artists. I make my living off copyrighted material that I created. I want it protected.

  12. The helmet design WAS protected, just under different legislation with a shorter protection period which has expired. Basically, UK law draws a distinction between objects which are artistic works (protected by copyright) and other objects (protected by design right). If what you’ve designed is a very pretty chair or a new body for a car, that’s design right.

    The Supreme Court’s basic point is that a helmet is not an artistic work (and it certainly isn’t a “sculpture”, which is the category Lucasfilm were trying to rely upon). You don’t need to artificially extend the meaning of “artistic work” or “sculpture” because we’ve already got design rights to protect non-art objects. And an object doesn’t become an artistic work just because it’s intended for use in a film – by that logic ALL props would be artistic works in their own right, which obviously can’t be correct.

  13. What I’m curious to know then is, definitively, does this copyright expiration only apply to replicas of the Stormtrooper helmet/costume?

    Meaning can the imagery of a stormtrooper be used for anything anyone wants now (in the UK, anyway)?

    What about every other character in Star Wars that wore a mask?