George Lucas...WTF?

StreamOfTheSky

Adventurer
'Star Wars' creator says laser too much like lightsaber - CNN.com
Mr. Star Wars sent a cease and desist letter to a company producing a portable laser and threatened to sue if they didn't C&D. Because apparently any laser at all with a sleek handle is a "light saber" even if it's clearly not even sword-like.

As someone who has never seen the Star Wars movies (no real attachment to this jerk, in other words), but who happens to LOVE laser technology (I hope to make that my career)...I'm royally pissed off right now.

...Discuss?
 

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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
If you haven't seen the movies, you might miss something - the body of the "S3 Spyder Arctic" real-world laser does, in fact, look like a movie lightsaber. The lightsaber only looks like a sword when it is turned on for combat, but their image when turned off is also iconic enough for folks to sell replicas.

I would guess there's two things going on here:

1) Maybe Lucasfilms (which is not necessarily really George Lucas himself) feels there's copyright infringement going on.

2) (And, I think, more likely) Those lasers are *powerful* - you can blind someone with it, or burn skin - dangerous enough that they are sold with safety goggles! Someone is inevitably going to get hurt, and I expect Lucasfilms wants to distance itself as much as possible from that. Some kid thinks it's a toy lightsaber, playes with it like a toy lightsaber, and next thing you know their friend Johnny has his retina burned out and Johnny's parents are looking for someone to blame. Lucasfilms may want it on record that they tired their level best to keep these things from being associated with their fiction and toys.
 

Thornir Alekeg

Albatross!
Can somebody with more legal background help me out here? How could this be a copyright issue as stated in the linked article? I could possiby see a trademark fight over the look and feel of the lightsaber versus the handheld laser, but how do you copyright the look of something?

As for the lawsuit itself, it really seems to be a silly thing. Next he'll be suing iRobot because the Roomba looks too similar to some droid from one of the movies.
 


Can somebody with more legal background help me out here? How could this be a copyright issue as stated in the linked article? I could possiby see a trademark fight over the look and feel of the lightsaber versus the handheld laser, but how do you copyright the look of something?

Images of something are definitely copyrightable. An image is a type of creative work (saved to a tangible medium) just like any other. Pictures (even moving ones), paintings, drawings, and what not are all copyrightable. In this case, the image is copyrighted in the movies and many other forms, including lightsaber replicas that Lucasfilm has produced. It is then being reproduced in another media; a physical laser casing.

As for the lawsuit itself, it really seems to be a silly thing. Next he'll be suing iRobot because the Roomba looks too similar to some droid from one of the movies.

Careful, there. "Droid" is actually trademarked by Lucasfilm. Read the fine print in a Droid phone commercial and you'll see it noted every time.
 

Cor_Malek

First Post
Well tbh it does look like a lightsaber. That was my first thought when I saw the photo a while back, and I still make that connection.

And I doubt it'd be a serious problem in the future, as lightsabers design is not very ergonomic as grips go. Which is one of many arguments why this likely was ripped off lightsabers.

That said, I think the company will be able to weasel out just fine. The client makes the connection, but when I compared the photo with photos of movie lightsabers... all in all it's just another very uncomfortable long thingie with parts placement that make as much sense as shoggoth limb-placement.

t1larg.light.saber.courtesy.jpg

lightsabers.jpg
 
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StreamOfTheSky

Adventurer
2) (And, I think, more likely) Those lasers are *powerful* - you can blind someone with it, or burn skin - dangerous enough that they are sold with safety goggles! Someone is inevitably going to get hurt, and I expect Lucasfilms wants to distance itself as much as possible from that. Some kid thinks it's a toy lightsaber, playes with it like a toy lightsaber, and next thing you know their friend Johnny has his retina burned out and Johnny's parents are looking for someone to blame. Lucasfilms may want it on record that they tired their level best to keep these things from being associated with their fiction and toys.

It doesn't take a very powerful laser to blind someone, just because of the nature of a laser.
Laser safety - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"The coherence, the low divergence angle of laser light and the focusing mechanism of the eye means that laser light can be concentrated into an extremely small spot on the retina. A transient increase of only 10 °C can destroy retinal photoreceptor cells."

In my optics class, we weren't using extremely powerful lasers, and even so safety was a major concern. All the instruments were painted black to make sure no laser light would relfect off of their surfaces and risk blinding any of us, for instance. Selling it with goggles and that extra lens is just helping to make it safer, and I think it's nice of the company to include those features. Whether lasers like that should be sold commercially at all is a different issue, and something for the governement to decide on. Apparently the government allows it, if ours didn't it'd be illegal to ship them to the U.S. still, for example. Not seeing the problem. (Maybe I'm blinded by science /reference)

As for the child safety issue...that's balloney. If a parent lets their kid get their hands on one of those, or if a shopkeep seels one to a kid, they're the ones at fault. And to try to blame Lucas for it because "they thought it was cool, like a lightsaber" is even more ludicrous, it's not his product. Not saying stupid lawsuits don't happen (and too often unfortunately, are successful), but...it shouldn't be that way.
 


Thornir Alekeg

Albatross!
Images of something are definitely copyrightable. An image is a type of creative work (saved to a tangible medium) just like any other. Pictures (even moving ones), paintings, drawings, and what not are all copyrightable. In this case, the image is copyrighted in the movies and many other forms, including lightsaber replicas that Lucasfilm has produced. It is then being reproduced in another media; a physical laser casing.
I understand the idea that an image itself can be copyrighted, but in this situation, the manufacturer did not take an image of a lightsaber and place a handheld laser inside an exact replica of a copyrighted image. That I could see being challenged in court. In this case the casing is being said to resemble a lightsaber in that it is a somewhat cylindrical shaped device with a laser in it. That seems like a really big stretch.

If I were a judge on this case, I would toss the whole thing out in a heartbeat on the grounds that the look of a handheld cylindrical device emitting a beam of light has been in the public domain for a long time as this thing called a flashlight.



Careful, there. "Droid" is actually trademarked by Lucasfilm. Read the fine print in a Droid phone commercial and you'll see it noted every time.
Oh, I know about that, and again, if a lightsaber "look" was a trademark issue, I would have less issue with this particular case.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
I understand the idea that an image itself can be copyrighted, but in this situation, the manufacturer did not take an image of a lightsaber and place a handheld laser inside an exact replica of a copyrighted image. That I could see being challenged in court. In this case the casing is being said to resemble a lightsaber in that it is a somewhat cylindrical shaped device with a laser in it. That seems like a really big stretch.

A thing doesn't have to be an exact replica of the entire original to be in violation. Take music, for example - you don't have to steal an entire song. You just have to take a sample of sufficient length to be in violation. By analogy, for a physical design you just have to have enough of the original's look to infringe.

And, no, it isn't just because it is cylindrical. The plain cylinder lasers they sell (there are several) aren't part of the suit.

If I were a judge on this case, I would toss the whole thing out in a heartbeat on the grounds that the look of a handheld cylindrical device emitting a beam of light has been in the public domain for a long time as this thing called a flashlight.

With respect - while I know that copyright's problematic in many ways, I think that sort of precedent would do damage to a great many artists and companies who do business by presenting artistic works.
 

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