Monday, July 20, 2009

Stormtrooper Pin Up Infringement

Dear Rich: I did a photo shoot for a pin up site where I dressed as a stormtrooper and took the costume off in pieces throughout the shoot. I am a girl, so clearly not one of George Lucas's original stormtroopers, just a girl dressed as one. However, I know that George Lucas has the copyright on stormtroopers, so I was wondering how the law stands. The short answer to your question is that you probably won't run into a problem. Your use is an infringement -- Lucas controls the exclusive right to reproduce the stormtrooper imagery. But if we were a betting blog, we'd bet that Lucas' lawyers probably won't notice (or care about your use). The Lucas legal team is tolerant of many personal uses of stormtrooper costumes and is more likely to take action if the infringement has a damaging impact on their properties. For example, Lucasfilm has gone after those who made unauthorized stormtrooper costumes, and sellers of knock-off light sabers. Even if the lawyers decide to go after your use, it will likely be done in stages -- that is, you'll be given the opportunity to remove the infringing material first and if you don't, then the legal team may bring out the proton torpedoes. Of course, you can always try the novel fair use argument that removing a character's clothing is ultimately a transformative use. (Just as many have argued that nude dancing is a form of free speech.) As for whether anyone's contemplated female stormtroopers, the Dear Rich staff is informed and believes that there is a  battalion of Femtroopers ready to battle for (or is it against?) the Empire.