Would it be illegal to sell Twi'lek lekku?

Discussion in 'Costuming and Props' started by VillieGee, Sep 17, 2003.

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  1. VillieGee Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 30, 2002
    star 3
    I'm no expert on the subject, and I was wondering what you guys think.
    If someone were to make a "one size fits all" Twi'lek headpiece that they could mass produce and sell, would that be copyright infringement? I would guess that as long as you just call it an "alien headpiece", that basically a latex hat with 2 big tentacles coming out of it wouldn't be copyrightable, right? I mean there's all sorts of obvious Star Wars knockoff toys out there that changed their products just enough to look like something else. Plus there's people that sell Stormtrooper kits and stuff and they never get sued (I don't think). What does everyone think?
    And if you have any legal experience, please speak up.
  2. Jyro-Kyrn Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 26, 2002
    star 4
    If you have to ask...

    This is territory best not intruded upon. Do you really want to even have to fight the "technicality" battle with Lucasfilm Liscensing? Best to not anger the sleeping giant.
  3. Sabia_Ronit Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Mar 12, 2003
    star 1
    Call it a snakewomans headdress.
  4. darthgoat Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 6, 2001
    star 4
    unless you are Rubies, the license holder, it is illegal.
  5. JediToren Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 20, 2000
    star 4
    "I'm no expert on the subject, and I was wondering what you guys think.
    If someone were to make a "one size fits all" Twi'lek headpiece that they could mass produce and sell, would that be copyright infringement?
    "
    Yes. Technically, even making a replica for your own costume is copyright infringement, but no studio or copyright holder would sue someone just for making their own costume. It would be a tremendous waste of time and money and garner them nothing but bad publicity.

    "I would guess that as long as you just call it an "alien headpiece", that basically a latex hat with 2 big tentacles coming out of it wouldn't be copyrightable, right? I mean there's all sorts of obvious Star Wars knockoff toys out there that changed their products just enough to look like something else."
    One of many legal myths is that all you have to do is change the name and you'll be okay. Unforunatley it isn't true.
    Those that sell knock-off items have signifigantly changed those items enough to not make a lawsuit worth LFL's time and money. Furthermore, the companies that make and sell those knock-off items have money and insurance and can afford to go to court if they are sued by LFL. Most of us here probably can't.

    "Plus there's people that sell Stormtrooper kits and stuff and they never get sued (I don't think)."
    Finding trooper armor outside of eBay is very hard these days. A number of the major armor makers were issued Cease and Desist orders. All but one, Gerardo Fallano, complied with those orders. When GF started making armor again after getting his C&D, LFL sued him to the tune of $100,000 dollars. They settled outside of court, but it could have been ALLOT worse.

    The market of unlicensed prop and costume replicas is still huge in spite of such lawsuits. A quick visit to the RPF will show you that.
    In the Star Wars realm, the people who get a Cease and Desist are those who don't go about their business in a discreet manner. The trooper armorers that got in trouble had their own websites and were offering it like it was a regular product. Most of the dealings today are carried out on boards via e-mail or via private message and are mostly collector to collector.

    I highly recommend you check out the Replica Prop Law forum on the RPF as well as John Pisa-Relli's Caveat Collector. John Pisa-Relli was the lawyer who defended Gerardo Fallano and a number of Trek prop makers who needed help when Paramount set their phasers on "sue."
  6. VillieGee Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 30, 2002
    star 3
    Making one replica of a copyrighted image for personal use isn't illegal. You're not making money off of it, it's for you. No laws are broken there. I'm getting a BFA in Illustration right now, and one of the issues that comes up sometimes is when students draw licensed characters for assignments. I asked my professors about it, all professional illustrators, and they all say that lisenced characters can be used in illustrations for self-promotional reasons (i.e. a piece in your portfolio), and pieces with lisenced characters can even be sold without infringing copyrights. It's when you sell the rights to reprint it or the rights to use it in any other way that you're violating copyright laws. Get what I'm saying?
    Here's my point: Do you guys think that Lucasfilm could possibly copyright an alien with two tentacles coming from its head? There are "alien foreheads" for sale that look alot like Klingon foreheads, but arent in any way affiliated with Star Trek. The Star Trek people can't copyright pointed ears, just the name "Spock" and his likeness. That's what I'm asking. Does that make sense?
  7. Skaught Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Sep 4, 2001
    star 2
    Does Lucas have a trademark on head tentacles? They don't have a trademark on laser swords. That is how Parks is able to stay in business.

    Scott
  8. JediToren Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 20, 2000
    star 4
    "Making one replica of a copyrighted image for personal use isn't illegal."
    Well I am just going off of what John Pisa-Relli and some of the other prop-collecting lawyers keep saying everytime the issue comes up. According to them even creating a replica prop or costume for your own collection is copyright infringement and they COULD sue you for it.
    However, given LFL's comments about fan costumers and their open support of clubs like the 501st and Rebel Legion it is unlikely that they would pursue such action and even if they did, they probably wouldn't win their case because of their open support of the hobby in the past.
    When it comes to the law, I value the advice of a lawyer, especially one who specializes in copyright law and has experience defending unlicensed prop makers in numerous cases (where the plaintiffs are Lucasfilm, Fox, Paramount, etc.) over an art professor or professional illustrator.
    A lawyer has been through years of law school and has had their knowledge tested again and again prior to graduation. Then they have to pass the Bar Exam before they are licensed to practice law. An illustrator or someone else with an art background probably took one or two introductory law courses in college, which probably focused on law as it relates to their profession/major.

    "Here's my point: Do you guys think that Lucasfilm could possibly copyright an alien with two tentacles coming from its head?"
    If you make something with an accurate forehead, either the male version or the female version, then I have no doubt that people will be interested in your stuff. However, you would definatley be putting yourself in harms way.
    If you just made a set of generic tentacles with a latex hat, then I would expect that the interest in your product would drop considerably. However, you MIGHT be out of harms way (but I'm not a lawyer so take my advice with a grain of salt).

    If you start doing this, and LFL does take notice if you and decides they don't want you making your stuff, then you will PROBABLY get a strongly worded Cease and Desist order. If you continue to make your stuff as GF did, then you will most certainly get sued for allot of money, like GF did. Unless you are filthy rich (as in a billionaire) you will probably end up settling outside of court like GF did. LFL has deeper pockets then you and can afford to fight you in court for the rest of your natural life. This is why most lawsuits end in settlement. The defendant decides to cut their losses rather than shelling out thousands just to pay their lawyer. Even if you win, you could go bankrupt in the process.

    I advise you to throroughly read over John Pisa-Relli's Caveat Collector and Prop Ettiquite articles as well as visit the RPF's Replica Prop Law forum and ask your questions there. Most everything you are getting here is going to be what people have heard and know, even my advise is that. I'm not expert on the law, I'm just going off what I have heard and been told. There are allot of lawyers that frequent that board and chances are you will get some real answers real soon if you ask your questions there.

    EDIT: Here is another great page: Replica Prop Law Myths.
  9. VillieGee Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 30, 2002
    star 3
    Yes, exactly Skaught. That's what I'm saying.
    Thanks for those links, Toren. What about what Skaught said though. If someone were to make female-style head-tails WITHOUT the headband, it would just be a skullcap with tentacles. Do you really think that could be copyrighted?
  10. JediToren Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 20, 2000
    star 4
    Parks isn't infringing because he doesn't produce replicas of any sabres from the movies or the EU. He makes his own designs and doesn't call them lightsabre (or lightsaber, whichever you prfer) so he's okay. As Scott pointed out, LFL doesn't own the rights to a laser sword of all kinds, so Parks is okay.

    "What about what Skaught said though. If someone were to make female-style head-tails WITHOUT the headband, it would just be a skullcap with tentacles. Do you really think that could be copyrighted?"
    Well judging from the pics of the various female Twi'Lek characters, there is more to the Lekku head piece than tentacles and the decorative headwear. The top rear portion of the skull is built up considerably and the tentacles are attached to the skull at angles. There are also those con shaped ears. If you did a decent job replicating those elements you would probably be sticking your neck out.

    I'm not really sure that generic head tails coming out of the back of the head would be that much safer. Pointed ears and laser swords aren't exactly original concepts. As far as I know, an alien like the Twi'Lek is unique to Star Wars.

    Unless you are filthy rich then I think that the question you are asking is irrelevant. If LFL disapproved of what you made, you would probabl get a Cease and Desist order. If you're smart, you'll do everything they tell you. If your not they'll make an example out of you like GF.
    They were lenient with GF, but warned that the next prop-maker that ignores a C&D will not be shown any mercy.
    You can easily drain all of your financial resources just paying for your legal defense. Lawyers like to drag these things out hoping you will settle. They can sue you for up to $150,000 for each infringing item. If you lose, you could face a multi-million dollar judgement plus paying LFL's attourney fees on top of whatever your defense cost you.

    I've frequented the RPF for years and I've bought a few prop and costume parts. I know enough about the whole thing to know that very few people are every bothered by Lucasfilm. LFL is not low-tech or in the dark on this stuff. They watch these boards and have full knowledge of what goes on. They shut down eBay auctions and they go after the folks who become well-known, blatantly advertise their wares before the public, and anyone else who isn't discreet about the whole thing. They make one example and the rest get scared and scurry back to their hiding places.

    The way most folks in this market/hobby/"industry" operate is they lay low and sell their stuff collector to collector. They don't advertise their stuff on websites or elsewhere. If they get a Cease and Desist they follow it's instructions to the letter. That usually involves turning over the items you have as well as a record of all the stuff you have sold.

    An RPF user named mattydog was C&Ded recently. Here is the order they sent him, minus contact info for the person who sent it:

    "Lucasfilm and its affiliated entities (collectively "Lucasfilm") are the
    exclusive owners of all rights in and to the major motion pictures Star
    Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes
    Back, Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: Episode I - The
    Phantom Menace, and Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones. These
    motion pictures and the characters and unique elements related thereto (the
    "STAR WARS Copyrights and Trademarks") are protected by the copyright and
    trademark laws of the United States and other nations.

    It has come to our attention that you are producing, distributing, offering
    for sale, and/or selling merchandise, including but not limited to crystal
    blocks containing etchings of the characters CHEWBACCA, BOBA FETT, CLONE
    TROOPER, DARTH MAUL, C3PO, and the STORMTROOPER from the STAR WARS films
    ("Unauthorized Items"). These items use STAR WARS Copyrights and
    Trademarks without Lucasfilm's authorization. For your convenient reference,
    we have enclosed a printout from the web page,
    , which
    advertises the Unauthorized Items.
  11. DarthJurist Admin Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Dec 10, 2000
    star 5
    Question: Do people producing cloth costumes (not armor) ever get the C&D's? I've heard of prop dealers and the bucket brigade getting the letters, but not seamstresses.... and lord knows there are plenty of "Jedi robes" for sale on various websites out there.

    ~H~
  12. JediToren Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 20, 2000
    star 4
  13. cyranodb Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 26, 2001
    star 4
    I don't think you can copyright a robe. In the end I can't fault LFL for defending their copyright so vigorously. In some ways it's a kind of defend or lose it situation; and Uncle George has spent lots of his life coming up with these ideas and creating an entire universe of characters, planets and things that I think he deserves the right to profit from them. I guess the best thing anyone can do is work small time and keep things under the radar. And if you have an idea how to make a licensed product you can always try and contact LFL Licensing and see what they say...worst they can say is no.
  14. Calixte Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    May 3, 2002
    star 4
    Since most seamstresses use commercially available patterns and/or make their own patterns, the copyright is not violated. If you use a commercially produced pattern licensed by LFL like the Butterick Leia and Luke pattern, it's already licensed by LFL and does not violate copyright law. If I make my own pattern to make the Classic Leia white dress, it's MY pattern, not LFL's and they can't sue. Only if I try to sell the costume publicly and call it "Princess Leia Classic White dress" can LFL issue a C&D to me b/c then I'm using THEIR property - the name of the character. If they could sue me over making my own pattern, then fashion knockoffs and major department stores would be getting sued by couture designers all the time. It just doesn't happen. Plus, knockoffs and our own patterns are most likely significantly different enough (even though they visually appear the same) that they don't own the copyright to a white dress with mandarin collar and hood. Make sense? There is a costume maker on the web at the Magic Wardrobe that does costume replication - lots of popular movie stuff. They simply don't call any of their stuff by SW names. They have been around for a while - about a year ago they were naming their costumes after the characters and I'm sure they got in trouble b/c one day all the costume names had been changed to generic names.
  15. darthgoat Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 6, 2001
    star 4
    its so nice to have all these legal experts on board!
  16. Calixte Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    May 3, 2002
    star 4
    I don't call myself an expert. But I do happen to be in Fashion Design school where these issues are discussed for obvious reasons. :)
  17. Skaught Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Sep 4, 2001
    star 2
    I just don't think that LFL has the rights to head tentacles. Does Paramount have the rights to pointy ears? Of course, pointy ears were around before Star Trek. You could call them head snakes, since Greek mythology is public domain.

    I'm no legal expert, so what I'm saying could be complete hogwash, but I really don't they they have the rights to the tentacles.

    I've seen Jedi costume patterns being sold by pattern companies that are obviously Jedi, but they don't call them Jedi. Same with the Matrix costumes.

    Scott
  18. LeiaYT1300 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Mar 7, 2002
    star 3
    I'm no expert either, but I do work as an image archivist for an art museum. Copyright comes up continually when it comes to publications, lectures, teacher materials, etc. the museum creates, and who owns what (the artist who made the piece, or the owners who loaned works to the exhibition, or the artist's family if the artist is deceased, etc.). Over the years, we follow the "fair use" clause in copyright law. So for example, if we have a slide of a piece, no matter the source, and a professor would like to use it in a lecture, we can do so without permission because this falls under fair use (no money is being made in regards to the lecture materials). It's only when you are dealing with mass reproduction (i.e. catalogs, postcards, etc.) and the profits from that mass production that things get tricky.

    It's amazing how often individuals and institutions violate copyright law in this country, but to be frank, it is very often difficult to obtain permission from owners of any media, and it can take months, even years to complete. Which is why copyright is ignored alot, and why the fair use clause was developed, to save time lags and expense. When dealing with copyright, it comes down to etiquette--don't make money off of it, don't mass-produce and don't advertise so much that you attract undue attention, and you should be relatively safe.

    So when it comes to costuming, it seems to me that Lucasfilm tends to send C&Ds to those who are greatly advertising/mass-producing/making a serious profit from the creation of replicas, no matter how close they are. But if you are only making one or two for yourself or a friend (even if money is involved, because a seamstress/amateur propmaker should be paid for their time and skill), and doing it quietly (not advertising to the world), then I highly doubt Lucasfilm would come after you. They would destroy their fan base royally if they invaded those boundaries.

    Granted, the fair use clause is a grey area, and you should treat each instance individually in relation to it, but I think if you start mass-producing lekku instead of on an occasional, per-request basis, you will be putting yourself at serious risk.

    But as I stated above, I'm no copyright lawyer--this is just my experience and knowledge that I'm spouting off here. Feel free to disagree. :)
  19. Smiling-Otter Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Mar 21, 2001
    star 3
    I really don't think a Twi'lek would appreciate your selling his/her lekku. Are the lekku supposed to be delicasies? Isn't Twi'lek poaching illegal? If not, it probably should be!

    :p
  20. Raef_Wolfe Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 12, 2003
    star 4
    I know zippo of the law, but here's my opinion-

    If you make a limited amount and sell them, or if you make some by request instead of mass producing, or just make them for freinds, I don't think you'd get into trouble. So long as you're not selling them for tons of bucks, I don't really think Lucas will care...it'd just bring a lot of negative hype because he's afraid someone will make money off of something from the movie if he did care.

    I mean, look at places like Parksabers. Hello, SABERS!!!! And they haven't gotten into trouble. I doubt if Lucas doesn't know about them....how could he not?
  21. Scruff Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 25, 1999
    star 4
    I'd just like to point out that there is one single design to lekku. The headdresses that the females wear vary. Sometimes there are cones on the headress in the same color as the skin, which a few poeple refer to as "horns" or "ears." Other Twi'leks have normal looking ears and no "horns." And of course, there's the big forehead on Bib Fortuna.

    With the on screen variation, it opens up a costumer to vary things a bit more and stay outside of a narrowly defined copyright.
  22. Raef_Wolfe Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 12, 2003
    star 4
    Theer are also different types of Twi'leks, as well as different variations in the ears. The red skinned and blue skinned females, for example. Then the pale Bib Fortuna is another example. And isn't there another male in the movies somewhere, who is even different from that?
  23. Eeth_Koth_is_dead Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 21, 2003
    star 3
    Yeah, his name is Senator Orn Free Taa. He is a blue Rutian twi'lek, and is really fat and has 4 lekku instead of just 2.
  24. cyranodb Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 26, 2001
    star 4
    He's not fat! He's just got big lekku. ;)
  25. Jedi_Kai Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 27, 2001
    star 4
    Anybody seen Farscape? Ka D'Argo? He has what look a lot like lekku. So, just like pointy ears aren't the sole domain of Star Trek Vulcans......
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