Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Is Star Wars Blog Illegal?

Star Wars Episode 12:
Revenge of the IP Lawyers
Dear Rich: I have a blog that I recently finished called Anikin's Blog. It was a spin off of the Star Wars movie series. I was, however, afraid of copyright infringments and thus refrained from spelling any copyrighted names correctly. I want to start a new blog about a Storm Trooper, but I figure I will get more traffic if I spell the names correctly and then can receive more Google searches. Is this legal considering the blog is non-profit? Can we start by clarifying one small point? Many people write to the Dear Rich Staff and state that their business is nonprofit perhaps because they think that fact will influence whether they are liable for infringing (it won't). Many readers believe that nonprofit means that their business doesn't profit. Not true. A nonprofit has a fairly specific definition; it is a business that qualifies for certain tax benefits and has registered as a nonprofit corporation. It may seem paradoxical but a nonprofit can make a profit, provided it plows those profits back into the charitable, scientific, or educational purpose for which it was created.
Right, you had a question. We're not sure about the value of your misspelled name strategy. We don't know if it shields you from Google searches or more importantly from Lucasfilm lawyers. In any case, in light of the zillions of unauthorized Stars Wars related blogs (at least seven of which claim to be the "official" Star Wars blog), as well as the galaxies of Star Wars fanfiction, Star wars podcasts, wikis, videos, and parodies, we think that a new blog about Star Wars Storm Troopers will be flying lower than a Gungan 'Bongo' submarine on the Lucasfilm legal radar screen. In other words, don't expect a cease and desist letter in the near future. That's not to say that someday, the Star Wars legal team will decide to clean house. But as a very general rule, the attorneys appear to reserve their legal muscle to go after those who seek to profit from unauthorized Star Wars products or those with high-radar trademark violations.

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