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Star Wars Prequels

Lucas Loses Star Wars Stormtrooper Copyright Case 325

An anonymous reader writes "A prop designer who made the original Stormtrooper helmets for Star Wars has won his copyright battle with director George Lucas over his right to sell replicas. The five-year saga, which ended in the highest court in the land, has stakes of galactic proportions."
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Lucas Loses Star Wars Stormtrooper Copyright Case

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  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @09:34AM (#36894170)

    This may be hard for a lot of younger people to believe, but there was actually a time in Hollywood when George Lucas was considered an incredible up-and-coming young director. Coming off of American Graffiti, a lot of people were thinking he would be the next Francis Ford Coppola. He was widely regarded as being in the same league (maybe an even better one) as Martin Scorsese coming off Mean Streets.

    But then the greed got him. An afterthought merchandising deal on Star Wars meant that his big money-maker from that point on was toys and merchandise, not movies. He stopped directing and let his best years pass him by. The ten-year-rule for directors is that, give or take, most directors have about 10 years of truly creative energy. And with the mountain of money he was sitting on from toys, he just sat back and let his expire. Now we'll never know what he might have done if he had to struggle, if he had kept working.

    That's a great lesson for you young creative types out there. Careful what you wish for.

    • That's a great lesson for you young creative types out there. Careful what you wish for.

      I'm not sure what you're getting at. Are you implying that George Lucas' career is a failure? Because I'm sure he wouldn't see it that way, and, given the massive empires he's created (Star Wars and Indiana Jones most prominently), I don't agree with you either. He may not have focused on directing for much of his career, but, looking back, you can't really say that he failed.

      • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @09:48AM (#36894366)

        His failure was in never coming even close to living up to his creative potential.

        • His failure was in never coming even close to living up to his creative potential.

          In other words, by "failure" you mean in the eyes of others (i.e. you), not his own. Because I'm sure he wouldn't see his own career as a failure, especially since he's probably too busy counting all of his money to care about what others think.

          • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *

            Of course. I was the one who wrote the original post, not him. I'm sure *he* also thinks his shit doesn't stink.

          • The term "failure" certainly can be applied if one is discussing opinions on quality film making. If we're discussing how to make a boatload of cash, OTOH, then of course failure would not describe his outcome. You're correct that in his own eyes he's done a great job of making movies; it is painfully obvious that even the collaborators on his films (watch this [slashfilm.com]) feel he has not. I agree with elrous0 - he failed to live up to the expectations and hopes of those of us who spent our formative years watching hi
            • What good is toiling away in obscurity making great films that nobody will see, and dying in poverty?

              I know a guy who writes lots and lots of songs that nobody will ever hear. It is sad.

              • Kurosowa made tons of great films; he's inspired many filmmakers and he's by no means obscure. Not everything Coppola did was great, but he is highly regarded and again, not obscure. Also, he wasn't poor. Sergio Leone, Woody Allen, the Coen brothers, Clint Eastwood, etc; all fit in this category.

                Closer to Lucas (but far more capable and with more integrity), Spielberg occasionally makes brilliant films. Certainly well-known, certainly not poor. More *like* Lucas, Cameron schlocks it on, makes a ton of mone
                • by Cederic ( 9623 )

                  Whoa! Differentiate between early and late Cameron please.

                  The Terminator and T2 were excellent films. Aliens is close to being perfect.

                  I'll concede that he hasn't maintained that level, but he has demonstrated a level of vision, technical skill and artistry far beyond Lucas.

              • by Qzukk ( 229616 )

                What good is toiling away in obscurity making great films that nobody will see, and dying in poverty?

                He toiled away making great films that everyone saw, and got rich, so he stopped and let other people sell toys and books for him.

                When he finally decided to go back and milk the cow again after 16 years (during the last 10 of which he directed nothing and produced only The Last Crusade and Radioland Murders), there was only a skeleton and a bit of leather in the corner of the shed. That didn't stop him from

          • Because I'm sure he wouldn't see his own career as a failure

            Very likely, you're wrong. Look at how many of his movies he goes back to fuck up. That's typically a sign he does in fact see his previous accomplishments as a failure; either directly or indirectly.

      • by Ucklak ( 755284 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @09:56AM (#36894474)

        Not a failure in a business sense but a failure in a creative sense.

        He surrounds himself with 'yes' people. Once he lost Kurtz, he never had that struggle to give his creative properties that extra push that made them great.

        Even Phillip Kaufmann is credited with Indiana Jones.

        Rick Mcallum is a total YES man and could have saved Prequel Star Wars if he would have had balls.

        • by dunezone ( 899268 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @10:24AM (#36894840) Journal
          There is a "Making of the Phantom Menance" video that you can watch on youtube. The look on Rick Mcallum's face after the first cut of The Phantom Menace is priceless. Then they go talk to the editors who tell them they cant fix any of the problems they see. This was a main point on the Red Letter Media review of the movie also. The only thing that saved them was that the movie would be a box office success no matter what.
        • I think that main problem with the prequels was the fact he was in total control and no one challenged him on anything. With the original three there were others that brought in their ideas like script writing and directing. I'm not advocating creating by committee but sometimes a fresh perspective can make something better.
      • So you are saying in terms of the art world the only measure of success is money? I call bullshit. In business he sure has won big, but not as a moving maker. And that was the point of the OP. So your comment is off base.

        I really liked the first Starwars movie that came out (Episode IV for you anal retentive types), as well as enjoyed the second that came out. But when he figured out that marketing would make him even more money than a well done and still very profitable movie, he began his epic failures wi

        • The Ewoks jumped the shark, but the Luke-Leia-Han triangle made it a good movie regardless. Eps 4-6 were character stories with actors that invested themselves in the roles(even Billy Dee). That is what made them great. We liked the characters(or hated them). Eps 1-3 were special effects sets with characters as an afterthought. The only likable characters were Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. The sad thing is that Eps 1-3 had a lot of good actors that completely mailed it in. Even Christopher Lee was underwhelmin
    • by redemtionboy ( 890616 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @09:44AM (#36894308)
      Ehhh, I don't think it has anything to do with greed. I think it has to do with that George Lucas is a great producer but a horrible director. Any director that says "I don't like the talking parts" should never be a director. If you think he is any different now than he was then, all you need to do is look at the original script to Empire Strikes Back. which features Darth Vader's subterranean castle with gargoyles and lava and that Luke's real father wasn't Darth Vader nor was Leia his sister. The thing that kept Lucas under control wasn't less licensing, it was smaller budget constraints and a lack of a team of yes men. No one dare tell Lucas that anything he did with Episodes I-III was garbage, He had a blank check to make the movies and a team telling him he could do no wrong. I couldn't expect anything different to happen.
      • by garcia ( 6573 )

        Based on the number of financially successful movies which rely little on dialogue, I'm going to guess you're wrong.

        However, I do agree that *I* much prefer movies with dialogue and clever scripts but it would appear that the general movie-going-public doesn't give a shit about thinking.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chucky_M ( 1708842 )
        Plinkett covered this in detail via http://redlettermedia.com/plinkett/ [redlettermedia.com] His reviews were easily the best thing about episode 1-3, GL is a great business man and nobody will take that away from him but he is the Microsoft of the film world.
      • I agree, the "Lucas is greedy" bit is far overblown. Yes, he makes a ton of money. But he doesn't live like Donald Trump, even though he easily could. From all accounts, he has a rather modest lifestyle for someone of his wealth. He pours the money into what he likes: making films. He seems to enjoy it from the macro level, and isn't so good at the details.

        Plus, a lot of people overlook the influence of his former wife, Marcia. She edited Graffiti, Scorsese's Taxi Driver, and all three in the original Star

        • by s13g3 ( 110658 )
          Really? Lucas isn't greedy? He musters the entire weight of his fortune, business and legal team against little guys selling bits of plastic; this is neither the first nor the only example of such behavior, as there is the beginnings of a clear pattern dating back to 1984 when he sued FASA Games over the use of the word "droid", leading to their game "BattleDroids" being renamed "BattleTech". I appreciate your sentiment, and would agree that Lucas' ex-wife probably had a lot to do with his earlier films be
          • by Pulzar ( 81031 )

            He musters the entire weight of his fortune, business and legal team against little guys selling bits of plastic

            You're exaggerating. If you decide that someone is selling something that you think you own, and you decide to sue him, you're going to use your corporate lawyers to do it, whether you're greedy or not.

      • by Pope ( 17780 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @10:46AM (#36895250)

        I would tend to agree: Lucas is a great technologist (THX sound, ILM effects, starting Pixar), a man who had a great imagination and desire for story telling, but an absolutely lousy director. You need to connect with your actors to get great performances from them, and Lucas wasn't interested enough in that. There's a behind the scenes clip from "Star Wars" that takes place on the Death Star. The good guys finish the scene, Lucas yells "Cut!" and the actors ask how it was. Lucas says nothing for a while, then finally says it was OK. The actors sarcastically say "Finally! Thanks, George!" or similar.

        Then look at the making of Episode 1 and some of the clips on Red Letter Media, especially about the casting of Anakin. George chooses a worse actor and everyone just agrees with him so they don't rock the boat. Then during filming, he provides barely any direction to the actors at all, which is why everyone except for Obi-Wan comes off so damn stiff. I think Ewan realized early on he wasn't going to get any feedback and just had fun with it.

        I'm certainly willing to cut Lucas some slack on "Star Wars" due to studio pressure and his own relative inexperience, but he was never and actor's director and I doubt ever wanted to be.

        Now back to the topic: Hooray for the little guy! :)

      • Uh, what? The #1 rule of screenwriting is show, don't tell. This is extended to dialogue, where terseness is a highly valued characteristic across the entire medium's history.

        • It's not that there wasn't enough dialogue. There's plenty of it, but it's the wrong dialogue and its delivery was poor. I'd blame the actors on delivery, but the ones that had issues with delivery in the new films are fantastic in others, so at that point I must refer solely to the director.
      • Any director that says "I don't like the talking parts" should never be a director.

        You mean like Kubrick did in 2001?

    • You're forgetting about THX 1138 [wikipedia.org] which for a student project, starring Duvall and Pleasence, was a true sci-fi piece of brilliance. Too bad about most everything afterwards.
      • You're forgetting about THX 1138 [wikipedia.org] which for a student project, starring Duvall and Pleasence, was a true sci-fi piece of brilliance. Too bad about most everything afterwards.

        Actually he did two versions. Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB was the the student project in 1967. The 1971 movie THX1138 was the Warner Brothers/American Zoetrope version based on the short he did as a student in 1967.

    • by multisync ( 218450 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @10:09AM (#36894636) Journal

      The ten-year-rule for directors is that, give or take, most directors have about 10 years of truly creative energy.

      Lolz ...

      Well, I guess someone better tell Scorsese, Eastwood, Woody Allen, David Lynch, the Cohen brothers, Cronenberg, Richard Linklater, Errol Morriss, Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Ang Lee, Gus Van Sant, and Wim Wenders their careers are over.

      Oh, and considering Lucas helmed two of the most successful movie franchises of the late 20th century, while founding companies that set the standard for cinima sound (THX) and special effects (ILM), no, I'm not surprised he was considered "an incredible up-and-coming young director." Along with contemporaries like Copola and Scorsese, he has had a dramatic influence on the art and science of making movies.

      • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @10:25AM (#36894858)

        Out of your entire list, only Scorsese is an exception to that rule. He got about 20 years instead of the usual 10.

        And the only influence that Lucas ultimately had on the "art and science of making movies" was in the influence that the special effects innovators working *FOR* him had.

        • Spielberg anyone?

          Jaws -1975

          Schindler's List - 1993

          Jurassic Park - 1993

          Saving Private Ryan - 1999

          Munich - 2006

          Plus everything in-between, that's 30 years of, give or take, of making movies people "must see."

          Munich did not bring in the crowds like Jurassic Park, but it wasn't that kind of movie. It was still critically lauded and nominated for many awards.

    • by tg123 ( 1409503 )
      Seriously, you make a handshake deal (Bet this deal was done in a pub)

      turn a few drawings into props for a major film and you lose all rights to use /make those props again ???

      How does that work ???

      Show me the paperwork that was signed.

      Sounds to me like George Lucas was being a cheapskate and ripping someone off.

      Is this great Wheel of Karma coming back or is it Luke defeating the Evil Emperor again ??? Use the Force .........

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I have one of the Darth Vader light sabers. In the sense that it is one of the flashlight holders that was rented to the movie by the props agency. I bought it when the props agency closed. At the time of the movie, no-one knew it would be a success. A lot of stuff was rented from the various agencies in LA. My version of the saber can be seen hanging from DV's belt. Once the movies became successful, the franchise has rewritten the history of its props and has mislead people in the various exhibitions it h

    • That's a great lesson for you young creative types out there. Careful what you wish for.

      With a net worth of $3.2 billion, I seriously doubt George is regretting much these days. The people who say "money can't buy happiness" are typically all poor.

    • Poor Mr Lucas, I wonder how sleeps at night knowing he let his talent go to waste.

      On soft pile of 1000 dollar bills while a fountain of liquid gold softly murmurs.

      And I would trade a 100 American Graffiti for a single Star Wars. So called great directors that nobody actually want to watch are a dime a dozen. The number of Star Wars movies can be counted on the fingers of Yoda's hand (3).

    • Most intelligent people saw the writing on the wall when he sued Battlestar Galactica way back when. He's been on a steady decline ever since.

  • facepalm, ow
  • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @09:58AM (#36894514)
    From the article, a list of people that supported Lucasfilms in the lawsuits: Spielburg, Peter Jackson, James Cameron, Jon Landau, Brian Henson (Jim Henson's son). These guys just saw a lot of their monopolistic merchandising rights in the UK disappear.
    • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @10:02AM (#36894552)

      Yes, and the UK just saw the first evidence for 10 years that in a small hidden away part of the universe, sane copyrights do exist!

      Even though this guy won, the case basically said Lucas had 15 years to monetise the design, and since then this guy, who moulded the original helmets, may now make some money off that having seemingly made fuck all from the original billions the Star Wars franchises netted Lucas and friends.

      All in all, it seems like a decent outcome. Lucas got to make his money from story telling and directing, this guy got to make money from his talent- creating props. Is that such a bad thing? Should Lucas really have been able to make money on even the bits he was talentless at? Even there he had 15 years to do so it would seem!

      • by KingSkippus ( 799657 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @10:33AM (#36894992) Homepage Journal

        You are so correct. And make money he did--during the late 70s and 80s, George Lucas and 20th Century Fox made millions off this movie. Apparently, that's not enough though, nosiree. In spite of the piles of cash in both of their respective bank accounts--and the piles of cash that are still flowing into their respective bank accounts because of the franchise--they're going to begrudge this schmo living a very modest life a few thousand dollars for physically making something that he originally designed that helped contribute those millions to their bank accounts.

        And then they have the unmitigated gall to accuse the guy of piracy--the guy who designed and built the things to begin with!

        You know, I could understand this if it was some jerk who has no relationship to Lucas or the movies making them and selling them as "Authentic Star Wars Stormtrooper Helmets," but that's clearly not the case. What should have happened is that George Lucas should have said, "You know, even if he's technically breaking copyright law, I'm going to give this guy a pass." Or if he were worried about holding onto his IP rights (even though there's a snowball's chance in hell of him losing them if he chooses not to pursue one single guy because of personal reasons), then he should have called the guy up and said, "Hey, how about giving me a token cut of the profit of each one sold for legal reasons, like say, one penny, and you can even tell people that they're authentic and authorized by George Lucas?" Oh yeah, because that would mean that their piles of millions of dollars would be shorter by a few thousand dollars, which is antithetical to the principle of being so damn greedy that it's not enough that you succeed, but everyone else must fail.

        Watching the Star Wars is one of the most cherished memories of my childhood, and I've always wanted to share those movies with kids growing up today. This crap makes me sick, though. It makes me wish that I had never seen the damn movies to begin with and stop sharing them with other people.

        Personally, I wish that they would restore the copyright length here in the U.S. back to its original 28 years. 28 years seems like plenty to make money off of your creation, and making it any longer stifles creativity and innovation of others and takes away from the public domain that which belongs in it. I know this case took place in Britain, and I wish that they would enforce a similar copyright period, which would have made this whole case a non-issue. The way I'm reading the article, although the outcome was fair to Mr. Ainsworth, it's still not a best-case scenario. He really only scraped by because the court found that his creation was an "industrial prop," not a work of art. Still, whatever, I'm glad the guy won.

    • by mcvos ( 645701 )

      What I don't get about this is: Lucas claims the helmets are sculptures and therefore protected by copyright. But why would Lucas hold that copyright? Andrew Ainsworth made the prototype and all individual helmets, and as I understand it, the deal was sealed on a handshake, so he didn't sign away any rights whatsoever. So even if it's death + 70, it's still his, and only his. Right?

      • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )
        Actually, the article even says the helmet prototype was made from a clay mock-up by Nick Pemberton, which was itself based on drawings made by Ralph McQuarry. So, the only way Lucas would own the copyright is if they were sculptures and were therefore commissioned by him, I would guess.
      • The problem is without a written contract there is far more argument on what Ainsworth and Lucas agreed upon. Ainsworth can rightfully argue he sold the props pieces and not the rights since the rights were apparently never discussed. Lucas argues that the rights were implied. Most contracts have to be be explicit in what is being exchanged and normally courts rule heavily on what is explicit not implied.
      • by Grumbleduke ( 789126 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @12:19PM (#36897114) Journal

        Much of the High Court judgment was taken up arguing this (as Ainsworth was counter-claiming that *he* owned the copyright in the helmet), but it was ruled that if there were any copyright or design rights they would be owned by Lucasfilm as there are presumptions about employers etc. owning things, and the evidence suggested that Ainsworth had only made minor modifications to the original designs, and these had all be approved by someone at Lucasfilm, possibly Lucas himself. [You can read the HC judgment here [bailii.org].]

        However, the court found that the helmet (and the other props he sells) weren't sculptures, so not covered by copyright at all in the UK (the design right they're covered by expires after 15 years). While there are copyrights etc. owned by Lucasfilm in the sketches, plans, drawings for the helmet (and in the films, of course), there is a specific exception to UK copyright law (under s51, CDPA) for making models from plans - this doesn't infringe copyright in the plans (otherwise you'd need a licence for every set of flat-pack furniture or Lego model).

    • Yes and no. This case is a little different in that Lucas didn't contract Ainsworth to only make the helmets. The article states he also designed them as well. It does pose some risk to other copyright holders but in individual cases there has to be some understanding of how much involvement they holders were in the actual design.
  • by gfxguy ( 98788 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @10:03AM (#36894558)

    I have mixed feelings about it, but I like the way the decision went. I think the "implied contract" BS is just that... BS. That this ruling might "hurt" artists in Britain because movie makers will not want to use them is also BS - all they have to do is have, you know, an ACTUAL contract.

    That what this artist is doing is "piracy" is also BS... he's actually making physical objects... the same physical objects he created over 30 years ago. Calling it piracy is like a record label calling their own artists pirates for doing live performances, even though there was no clause in their contracts not to.

    • by mcvos ( 645701 )

      Not only is he making physical objects, he's the designer and creator of the originals. If there's no contract, shouldn't any copyright simply be his?

    • The problem is the never ending copyrights. Had copyrights not been extended, retroactively, the original term of 14 years, plus one extension of 14 years. Which would mean if this was done in 1977, when he started selling them in 2002, it would have been fine. If you can't make you money back in 28 years, you are doing something wrong, and too bad.
  • by ozbird ( 127571 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @10:03AM (#36894566)
    ... as if millions of voices suddenly cried out "F*ck you, Jar Jar Binks!" and were suddenly smug.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @10:05AM (#36894580) Journal
    Apparently, the UK case hinged on whether the stormtrooper armor was a sculptural work of art(entitled to copyright in hahaha-not-quite-perpetuity) or a merely functional design(15 years). The court decided the latter.

    However, as a nerd and pedant in good standing, I cannot allow this ridiculous assertion to go unchallenged: can armor that fails to protect its wearer from being clubbed to death by mere teddy-bears, and reduces the accuracy of the Empire's finest to one notch above slapstick truly be called "functional"? Absurd.
    • by c ( 8461 )

      I cannot allow this ridiculous assertion to go unchallenged: can armor that fails to protect its wearer from being clubbed to death by mere teddy-bears, and reduces the accuracy of the Empire's finest to one notch above slapstick truly be called "functional"?

      Dude, relax. They were just using stunt armor in the movie. Creative liberties, etc. The real stuff is apparently a lot better.

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )
      I would say that the armor was clearly designed not to protect against blunt force trauma, but rather to protect against blaster fire, but obviously they were even useless against the primary weapon used by everyone in the galaxy.
  • Seriously does Lucas not have enough money? I can understand he is worried about the Logo, because let's face it Star Wars is a brand name.
  • The writeup suggests that Lucas just bought a load of armour from a supplier. No contract to indicate this was a work for hire. The artist designed and manfuactured the armour and then sold it. They were just sold as props. I seem to agree with the supreme court here.

    What I don't see is why Lucas has rights for those first 15 years. If I use any other commercial product in a movie do I have full rights for 15 years to explit it? If I have my hero drive a Ferarri does this mean I can refuse to allow
  • and yet, it seems the fans/fanboys (and girls) keep throwing money towards him - in the hope that something new will capture the spirit of the original trilogy (I believe). Unfortunately, George seems bound and determined to fill all the roles of director, producer, main grip, scriptwriter, lighting, and so forth (except music and sound). Everyone who was around for the original trilogy when it first came out all know that Lucas should _NEVER_ direct another movie -- hell, not even a commercial! -- in his l

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Better editing could fix those problems. IN fact, You change about 30 minutes of each film and they would be excellent.

  • While this certainly is a victory for this guy, things will change in the movie industry. No longer will props be bought without huge contracts that take away every single right of the people who design and build them. I foresee this causing the elimination of most independent shops designing and developing props. Movie studios will instead go to (or create their own) industrial prop houses and hire cheap talent to crank out props. The really good artists will be replaced by wage slaves just showing up

    • Yes indeed! I'm a bit excited about that too. But I wonder how far it goes. Clearly, there will be a flood of storm trooper costumes on eBay... this guy who originally created them and makes new ones for original moulds will still be able to price his output higher than others, but he will still have to lower his prices.... something I welcome as I have always wanted one of those suits myself. And only recently have I reduced myself back to a size 32 waist so that I can actually wear one without looking

  • Does this mean that I as an engineer may at some point in the future be able to make millions off of my inventions instead of having to hand them over to my employer?
    • No because most likely you have a contract that prevents you from doing so because you signed away your rights to your works to your company. On the other hand, this was a case of Lucas purchasing industrial props and because of this the copyright expired thus allowing this guy to make replicas. Now if your company's copyrights to the works you did for them happened to also expire, yes, you could start creating and selling what you invented for your company.

  • So does copyright in this instance pay the Artists?

    Wasn't this guy at least one of them? I know he didn't do the sketches, but he did the interpretation. He sold instances of his work. He never assigned his copyright formally.

    And Lucas gets billions, and he gets sued? And makes from his art just enough to cover this legal fight?

    And so why do we care about extensive copyright again? For the Artists? HA!

  • ridiculously bad prequels, im convinced the judge acted in the interest of protecting the entire franchise.
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @11:33AM (#36896154) Homepage

    I do see the stormtrooper costume as art or at the very least, a critical component of art creations such as video and images. How is a prop not art?

    But you know? Still glad Lucas lost in this case.

    But one argument I didn't read and kind of expected to read at some level is that these costumes are COSTUMES. They are CLOTHES. And guess what? Clothes are not eligible for protection under copyright or trademark. Logos and branding on clothes are eligible, but for hundreds of years, this has been the case and courts have held this up for nearly as many years.

    I would have argued that the helmet and armor are clothes and are simply not eligible for that kind of intellectual property protection. I wonder how that argument, if made, would have fared through the courts?

I've noticed several design suggestions in your code.