A legal question....

Discussion in 'Fan Sites' started by Corbin-Das, Mar 4, 2008.

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  1. Corbin-Das Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2005
    star 2
    Hi all!

    Corbin Das here. Hopefully there are some lawyer types in this forum that can give their thoughts on the matter. Anyone is free to answer though.

    My question involves the use of copyrighted words, images and names. I know that a non-profit endeavor like a fan film doesn't usually have to worry about much. I also realize that a for-profit website cannot use any copyrighted material to try and make money. I suspect there's a fine line in here somewhere, but I'd like to hear what people think.

    I own 2 different websites. I intend for one of them to be a non-profit site that has a gallery of things I make (mainly lightsabers). There will likely be tutorials, a forum and hopefully the graphic novel I'm working on. It's completely non-profit and will serve as a showcase for the things I'm working on.

    I was thinking of having the other site be a place where folks could buy the things I make. If there's a picture of the item in the gallery of the non-profit site, do you think it can have a link to the other site that sells it without there being an issue? Maybe something like a "click here for more info" tab or something?


    Thanks


    Corbin


  2. DVeditor Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Dec 21, 2001
    star 6
    I'm no lawyer, but I seriously doubt you'll ever see a problem with it. With all the eBay links and ads for companies that do exactly what you're describing with their products...I don't see how anyone could chase after you for it. :) Good luck!
  3. Brandon Rhea Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 26, 2004
    star 5
    I agree with DV. However, it'd be best not to actually call your lightsabers, "lightsabers". If you call it a laser sword or something like that but make sure people know what it is, then you can avoid any potential trouble that is doubtful to occur anyway.
  4. Corbin-Das Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2005
    star 2
    Thanks
    I appreciate your opinions. I know that it's probably not going to be an issue, but I'd rather do things legally than not. That way, if anyone ever takes issue with me or has some personal problems with me, they can't say my website is doing something illegal and try to get me in trouble. The lightsaber community is generally full of folks that get along, but sometimes there's someone that likes to stir stuff up. I suppose it's like that in any hobby based group though.

    I wouldn't call something by its copyrighted name on my for-profit site. A lightsaber would likely just be called a saber, or maybe a Luxeon saber, assuming it uses a Luxeon LED. I'm not sure if the term "blaster" is copyrighted or not. I think Space Gordon used that term decades before Star Wars did. Either way, there's tons of other names things can be called, so that's not an issue.

    The main thing I'm concerned with is if I have a non-profit webpage dedicated to something I made (a holocron for instance), and that page has a background story to go with the thing I made, if I use copyrighted words, images or whatever, can I have a link to another site that sells this item (even if the copyrighted words and images don't appear on the site that's actually selling it)?


    I agree it's likely to never be an issue, and I'm probably concerning myself over nothing.... but I would rather do that than get in trouble later on the off chance someone takes issue with me.


    Thanks again and if anyone else has an opinion here, please feel free to chime in.


    Corbin
  5. YodaJeff Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 18, 2001
    star 7
    Actually, I seem to recall that there was an unlicensed replica lightsaber website that had legal action taken against it in the past... (see here) And that isn't an isolated incident, other companies such as Shepperton Design Studios also have been sued for making unlicensed SW replicas.

    Finally, I really don't think that having two separate websites in the manner you described would be any more "legal", it just seems like a cheap attempt to try to avoid legal issues.
  6. Brandon Rhea Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 26, 2004
    star 5
    I believe they can only get in trouble if they pass them off as replica Star Wars props and call them lightsabers. If it's just a "laser sword" that happens to look like a lightsaber, though not a replica of one used in the films, then they can't really do anything about it. If they could, then every baseball franchise and theme park in the world that sold those light-up, multi-colored laser swords would be sued by Lucasfilm.
  7. YodaJeff Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 18, 2001
    star 7
    Yes, but if the owner of said "laser sword" website just happens to own another website that refers to them as lightsabers, and even links to the "laser sword" ordering site from the lightsaber site, it becomes a lot harder to claim that there is was no intention to pass them off as lightsabers.

    Also, it was never clearly stated if the sabers and other props were going to be replicas of those seen in the films, or uniquely designed pieces that only resemble the concept those in the films.
  8. NarCranor Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 1, 2005
    star 2
    This definitely could be contestable in court, though LucasFilm is not going to go after you for money, they would just issue a cease and desist on the one site area that is selling the items in the worst case. To lessen this, don't do the following:

    1.) As people have said, don't call them lightsabers or blasters or whatever, use more sci-fi generic terminology.

    2.) Don't replicate precise props from the films. IE: don't make Anakin's lightsaber and try to sell it. If you are doing purely unique designs of your own creation, you are less likely to have problems.

    In general, I say go for it until you get a C&D order. If you can put a few bucks in your pocket doing something you enjoy, then good for you. Odds are you will be a very small fish in a large pond where there are guys making quite a bit of cash illegally that lucasfilm would rather go after first.

    Another thing you can do, is set it up so people can just contact you for more info about "building their own version of what you have displayed". In that private email, you can negotiate building it for money for them privately. This is a little more cloak and dagger, but its definitely safer in terms of law suit activity, since it is very unlikely lucasfilm will even hear about what you are doing.
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