Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Can I use a lot of stuff from Star Wars and not get sued?

Dear Rich: If I wanted to write a book that takes place in the Star Wars universe, and is populated by named Star Wars characters, would that be legal? Moreover, let's say I call it something like "Rebel Discord" (I assume Lucasfilm can't trademark "Rebel"), would I be able to say something like "a Star Wars story" on the cover or advertising? As a general rule, you should presume that owners of movie franchises like Star Wars have a pile of copyrights and trademarks and generally use proton torpedos against anyone who makes unauthorized use. Since well-defined characters can be protected under copyright law, your proposed book with Star Wars characters, locations, and the word 'Rebel' in the title could lead to a claim of copyright infringement. You'd be free to use the title Rebel Discord if you weren't borrowing from StarWars but the combined use of the characters and other elements with "Rebel" also makes it seem as if you're riding on the back of the Star Wars success and in that way. you're likely to confuse consumers (leading to claims of trademark infringement). Of course, It's also possible that Lucasfilm lawyers would never see your work and in that event this answer would be irrelevant.