Star Wars: UK copyright scope defined

The UK Supreme Court has confirmed in Lucasfilm Ltd v Ainsworth that the Imperial Stormtrooper helmets and other moulded props for the Star Wars films are not “sculptures”, hence are not covered under copyright as artistic works. The court held that the primary function of these props was utilitatian in the sense that it was an element in the process of production of the film, the Star Wars films instead themselves being the artistic work. More groundbreaking is the Supreme Court’s decision that an English court may exercise jurisdiction in a claim against persons domiciled in England for infringement of copyright committed outside the European Union in breach of the copyright law of that country. As the helmets are considered artistic works under US copyright law, and Lucasfilm already obtained judgment against Ainsworth in the US but could not enforce the judgement as the Defendant had no assets there, it is expected that Lucasfilm will try to bring a claim for infringement of US copyright law in the UK. The outcome of such a case would be very interesting and could have significant implications on cross-border IP right enforcement.

08/02/2011 | Copyright