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Free Lightsaber Event Now Battling Lucasfilm's Lawyers ( 198

For eight years the arts collective Newmindspace had been staging free lightsaber battles, and in December they set a world record with 9,951 "combatants" simultaneously participating in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Seattle. But then in January they received a letter from the copyright attorneys for the Star Wars franchise. "We immediately stopped using the words 'lightsaber,' 'Jedi,' 'Sith' and 'The Force,' " the group's co-founder told the technology blog of the San Jose Mercury News, saying they've still been "aggressively pursued" for the last three months. '''In March we received further communication stating 'The Light Battle Tour' and 'light sword' were still too close to their trademarks, and we moved to settle the dispute to avoid legal action." Their new solution involves referring to the weapons as "catblades", and they've re-branded their upcoming series of events (which begins on April 30 in San Jose) as the "Cats in Space Tour".
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Free Lightsaber Event Now Battling Lucasfilm's Lawyers

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  • Because... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wbr1 ( 2538558 ) on Sunday April 10, 2016 @07:26AM (#51878555)
    Because people having fun and not tithing us is upsetting.

    Otherwise stated, because fuck you that's why.

    Imagine if this had stopped 'Star Trek" conventions through the years. Would the franchise be nearly as popular as it was/is?
    Here is a clue for the 1% media fucktards and their lawyer army. Something that gets people engaged and excited about your supposed "IP" is free word of mouth advertising. Word of mouth advertising is free, and far more effective than any other kind that you pay dearly for. The trade of is you cannot tightly control the message. Boo hoo.

    • Re:Because... (Score:5, Informative)

      by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Sunday April 10, 2016 @07:37AM (#51878577) Homepage Journal
      Star Trek conventions are licensed. All you guys have been duped by the marketing.
      • Imagine if [copyright and trademark restrictions] had stopped Star Trek conventions through the years.

        Star Trek conventions are licensed.

        Handling Star Wars analogously would be fine if Lucasfilm had posted an offer of terms under which to host a licensed Star Wars convention. Has it?

    • When Astronomer Carl Sagan objected to Apple using "sagan" as their internal code name for one of their projects, they changed the code name to Butthole Astronmer. Perhaps they should change the name of the catblades to C&D sabers. I wonder if Apple would lend them the name Sosumi.

      • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Sunday April 10, 2016 @10:07AM (#51878979)

        From Wikipedia: In 1994, engineers at Apple Computer code-named the mid-level Power Macintosh 7100 "Carl Sagan" after the popular astronomer in the hope that Apple would make "billions and billions" with the sale of the computer. Apple used the name only internally, but Sagan was concerned that it would become a product endorsement and sent Apple a cease-and-desist letter. Apple complied, but its engineers retaliated by changing the internal codename to "BHA" for "Butt-Head Astronomer". Sagan then sued Apple for libel in federal court. In November 1995, Apple and Sagan reached an out-of-court settlement and Apple's office of trademarks and patents released a conciliatory statement that "Apple has always had great respect for Dr. Sagan. It was never Apple's intention to cause Dr. Sagan or his family any embarrassment or concern". Apple's third and final code name for the project was "LaW", short for "Lawyers are Wimps".

        I think they should call these blades Litigation Exit Sabers or LitESabers for short.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      In Japan, self-published works are called doujin works. Many of them are derivative of existing works, like commercially published manga and anime. What's special about them is that they are openly sold. Comiket, the most popular event for buying and selling doujin works, has over 30,000 individuals and groups selling stuff, and over 500,000 total attendees. Twice a year. Not everything there is based on existing works, but a lot of it is.

      It's not technically legal to sell these derivative doujin works, but

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        I'm a proponent for intellectual property rights but that shouldn't be read to mean that I believe the current system is ideal and wouldn't serve better with some reworking. One of the things that really needs to happen is, in my views, taking a good look at the affirmative defense that is known as "Fair Use." It's entirely subjective, at least from my reading of the law and from reading the results of lots of cases over the years.

        An affirmative defense means that you basically say, "Yeah, I used the work b

  • PR idiots (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 10, 2016 @07:26AM (#51878557)

    I would have sponsored the event, it's obvious that there is a huge following of fans there.

    • Exactly. They could have sponsored them. Added a few extra small things like cosplay judging or something and then made out like thieves on crappy memorabilia.

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )
        Or, if Disney didn't want to do that, they could have at least told them to explicitly acknowledge the terms they might be using that are owned by Disney, and to state that Disney has not sponsored or endorsed the event, which would make their usage fall into nominative use, giving Disney no legally sustainable reason to sue them in the first place since nominative usage of a trademarked term, even in public, is considered non-diluting.
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Sunday April 10, 2016 @07:45AM (#51878601) Homepage

    Instead of reaching out and asking if these people would want to become a sanctioned event, or a simple, could you please work with us to not violate our IP, they chose to instead swing the FUCK YOU hammer.

    Lawyers are garbage.

    • by StormReaver ( 59959 ) on Sunday April 10, 2016 @08:20AM (#51878679)

      Who didn't see this coming when Disney bought Lucasfilm? This is just the beginning.

      • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Sunday April 10, 2016 @09:36AM (#51878915)

        Who didn't see this coming when Disney bought Lucasfilm? This is just the beginning.

        This better hit 5 insightful.

        Way back in time.... []

        In 1989, a day care center in Florida had some paintings of some Disney characters on the wall in their playroom. What better way to get little children to become fans and put more money into the coffers? Little kids begging for their parents to take them to Disney again and again to see the real characters that they fondly remember from a very young age

        But Disney didn't see it that way, so they bitchslapped the the center with the threat of legal action.

        Hanna Barbera stepped in and allowed the place to use it's characters gratis.

        Oh, just wait cosplayers and Star Wars fans. Just wait until the court cases over Han shot first. The C and D lawsuits over sexy Leia bikinis.

        If you thought Lucas was an asshole, welcome to your new overlords.

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          That case always gets brought out. :D Well, not always... There's a bit more to the story but nothing too huge.

          They were also violating the local sign regulations.
          http://articles.orlandosentine... []

          Disney really, really are dicks:
          http://articles.sun-sentinel.c... []

          I can't find the last one but because the pictures were too large anyhow, and the day care didn't get the correct permissions - even after given a chance, the Hanna-Barbara pictures got painted over in 1992, I think? I think it was 1992. I can't find

          • Here's the fun part... Because Hanna-Barbara did that for *this* day-care, the original one, they ended up having some legal issues that came out of it, as others sought to license them at the same cost that the Floridian day cares paid.

            Some days, people are very hard to like.

      • Star Wars half died for me when Lucas re-released the original 3 all screwed up in the late 90's, it was confirmed dead on the prequels.

        I don't give a damn about the franchise and I do say franchise, because they are so transparent with it all. There's no veil of mystery, no universe to be interested in. Star Wars, like all fictional properties is a product. Problem is, with Star Wars, they really don't bother blurring the line at least, it's just outright, in your face BUY ME, BUY ME bullshit.

        Haven't seen

    • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Sunday April 10, 2016 @08:23AM (#51878689)
      I'm not a lawyer but I do recognise it's the pricks that send in the lawyers for this sort of thing that are the real garbage. Do you think a lawyer would do this on their own without somebody giving them money and a task to do?
      • by GrumpySteen ( 1250194 ) on Sunday April 10, 2016 @09:25AM (#51878883)

        Do you think a lawyer would do this on their own without somebody giving them money and a task to do?

        Absolutely []. Prenda Law is well known for 'buying' rights from porn companies in order to use them to extort money from defendants. It's very doubtful that any company ever paid them to go after anyone, though the people behind Prenda law certainly had fun setting up shell corporations to try and make it look like it.

        • Prenda Law was shut down in 2013. In that case at least the system works.
          • Sort of, but not really.

            Prenda Law shut down, but the people behind it haven't faced any real consequences.

            Paul Hansmeier was one of the people behind Prenda Law, for example. He's moved on to filing ADA violation lawsuits against small businesses using the same business model; demand payments that are a bit less than it would take to defend in court in order to drop the suit. He's filed over a hundred of those lawsuits in less than two years.

            He's also trying to file for bankruptcy to get out of the debts

      • If you have too much of lawyers they will find someone to sue dont' worry.

    • They (Disney lawyers) are not stopping because in their eyes the damage has already done (association with Star Wars) and people will associate the event with Star Wars and light sabers no matter WHAT the event is renamed as.

      If they were SMART they would buy the event outright. It's a successful marketing vehicle for their franchise! WHY IN h double hockysticks do they not get it?

    • by ph0rk ( 118461 )
      To be fair, the lawyers probably aren't the ones that set the marching orders. They aren't screwing with these guys just for kicks, but because they are paid to do so.
    • Instead of reaching out and asking if these people would want to become a sanctioned event, or a simple, could you please work with us to not violate our IP, they chose to instead swing the FUCK YOU hammer.

      Lawyers are garbage.

      Yup, that would have been good all around. Let them license the terms so Disney doesn't have copyright issues; the event holders could even put in a nod to Disney thanking them for being decent enough to work out a good solution. However, they instead decided to bring out the Death Star...

      For me, the classic example how to do it right in such a situation is how Stevens Aviation settled with Southwest over the "Plane Smart" slogan. Stevens Aviation CEO Herwald challenged Southwest CEO Kelleher to an arm wres

  • Cats In Space? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by supremebob ( 574732 ) <themejunky@geo c i t i e s . c om> on Sunday April 10, 2016 @07:48AM (#51878607) Journal

    Seriously, is that the best name they could come up with it?

    I would have went with the "Generic Glowing Space Sword" battle, which gets the point across while giving the middle finger to Disney and their copyrights.

    They could have also done a Spaceballs themed Swartz battle, assuming that whoever owns that copyright also isn't an asshole.

    • I suppose they could name an event Cats vs the bottom feeding mice? We do now know there is not much difference between, bottom feeders, mice and sith lords.

    • It's not a copyright, but a trademark. Which also means it's the only time they technically have to sue to retain their 'brand'. However, I don't think it would hold up in court as a trademark. Usually you get a trademark on a product you produce within a given market. They neither make nor create 'lightsabers', though they do outsource some toy production of what could be called 'lightsabers' and are usually branded as such, and they don't create events utilizing them (that I've ever heard of).

      So it seems

      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        Should have just gone with "plasma sword" or "energy sword". There's tons of examples of such weapons in science fiction from before Lucas. Changing merely the word "sabre" to "sword" as admittedly a rather weak change.

        • Bullshit! What the event needs is a good lawyer. Lightsaber is barely not generic enough as it is given there are references to flaming swords in the fucking bible. It is not at all a unique concept, especially when you consider what 45 years of Sci-Fi wrought before Star Wars showed up.

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      Was I the only one here who actually tried googling [] "Cats In Space"?

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        Disney made a movie with almost that title. It's "Cats from Outer Space." At least I think it was Disney.

    • Re:Cats In Space? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Sunday April 10, 2016 @09:40AM (#51878921)

      They could have also done a Spaceballs themed Swartz battle, assuming that whoever owns that copyright also isn't an asshole.

      That would be Mel Brooks, who I suspect would not only not sue, but would probably show up and make them laugh their asses off, as well.

    • Plus, they just changed their fanbase from SciFi fans to Furrys!
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday April 10, 2016 @08:08AM (#51878663)

    So there is this huge event made by geeks that costs them not a dime, advertises their franchise with what is pretty much a public stunt show and they SUE against that?

    "But what if they misrepresent it?"

    Please! We're talking hardcore geeks here. Anything that could remotely, possibly be consider by someone not-canon would be axed if not nuked with more zeal and closer attention to detail and accuracy than any of the lawyers who have no idea about the franchise itself, only about its IP laws, could or would do. If anything, these things are going to be closer to canon and whatever the "designers" of the franchise create than any amusement park you sell your IP to ever would (because they don't give a fuck about canon as long as it is gimmicky).

    So please explain that to me. It makes no sense.

    Oh. It's covered by copyright law. Ok, never mind, carry on, that's not supposed to make sense.

    • by c ( 8461 )

      "But what if they misrepresent it?"

      Please! We're talking hardcore geeks here. Anything that could remotely, possibly be consider by someone not-canon would be axed...

      Sure. Just as long as nobody brings up Greedo shooting first...

      • Like Disney gives a shit about that, it's a miracle that they didn't retcon the first trilogy altogether so far.

        • by c ( 8461 )

          Like Disney gives a shit about that, it's a miracle that they didn't retcon the first trilogy altogether so far.

          That's roughly my point. You're arguing that fans aren't going to misrepresent Star Wars canon, but you're also aknowledging that there's a (growing) disagreement between fans and the property owners about what actually is canon.

          In such a disagreement, the side with the bigger lawyers usually "wins".

    • It's about *control*. Controlling something is a reward of its own. If they don't control it, then they must destroy it. Who cares if it's a bunch of idiots glorifying violence? That's totally irrelevant. They took to heart the lessons of Master Yoda who said, "Control, control, you must learn control!"
    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Sunday April 10, 2016 @10:13AM (#51879007)
      They have to protect themselves against trademark dilution, or they could lose the trademark. The more amenable solution would've been to give these guys a license to use those trademarks for their event for a paltry sum like $1. But I guess Disney wants all such events to require you pay the $100+ admission to Disneyland / Disneyworld.

      And at this point, I don't think the franchise cares about any more advertising, free or not. It's pretty much reached the saturation point in mindshare.
  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Sunday April 10, 2016 @08:20AM (#51878677)
    Just change the name - Sword Art Online had the "laser sword".
    It's as valid as renaming Snarf to Jar-Jar and then making the character horribly annoying.
  • Fair Use (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 10, 2016 @08:20AM (#51878681)

    Ah, so their business strategy for keeping their business is to gain revenue from fans by alienating fans.
    This is quite a novel approach to business. Ok then. If they can dictate what English words other people should use, then i will dictate how my money that i created will be used.
    I won't buy anything Star Wars ever again, and will only pirate any and all media they get out.
    Two for two.

    • Re:Fair Use (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ledow ( 319597 ) on Sunday April 10, 2016 @08:30AM (#51878713) Homepage

      All say "boo". Walk away and find another franchise.

      Honestly, never "got" Star Wars anyway, certainly not the modern prequel crap, and can't bear to sit through any of them.

      But the problem is that people think it's "a franchise for the fans" when it's just "a franchise for the finance". They honestly don't care about your fan club, they just want money from you. And fucking idiots keep giving them money.

      Let it die. Go "Oh, yeah, that was a good movie when I was a kid". Then forget about it. Not even out of spite. Just forget it exists and move on. It had its time. Like "The Matrix", it was great, it was milked for all it was worth, let it then die, and at least remember the first as a great movie.

      Incidentally: Star Trek, Dr Who (??? Seriously don't understand this, despite being British), etc. are all the same.

      Let it remain in your childhood as a fond memory, rather than playing a kid for the next 40 years and handing people money for doing nothing and screwing over actors.

      Every movie and TV show I ever watched as a kid? Nowhere near as fun as I remember. Just keep them in your head, they are funnier there, and cost nothing.

  • Has a light sword to guard against reentry into paradise. Seems strange to grant a trademark for that.
  • I would think trade marking Light sword and Light Blade would be hard, even Light saber is difficult.

    It's a light saber, as in, a saber that is physically light. Bam, can't trade mark the word and force english to change to protect your trade mark.

    Light battle, plasma sword, sword of light, all things used all over the place. Being so Iconic 'Light Saber' and the fact that they appear as such is probably the only thing they can really strike down.

    Even still.

    • It is not a saber anyway. A saber is curved and single edged. "Lightsabers" have no edge at all and definitely aren't curved.

    • BTW, you can't use "Light Cycle" either (from TRON). Disney must own the word "light".
      • by Tyr07 ( 2300912 )

        I wonder if they're going to sue washing machines for having a light cycle?

        I suppose it matters more about how it is used.

  • I see your Schwartz is as big as mine.
  • by lionchild ( 581331 ) on Sunday April 10, 2016 @11:22AM (#51879261) Journal

    Since Lucasfilm/Disney would be better served by not having lawyers running after a good-will event like this, it seems like everyone might be better served if Lucanfilm/Disney would require them to collect a $1 entry fee, all of which is required to go to a charity. Now, no on looks like the bad guy, everyone has fun, and people get some help.

  • Considering that "Jedi" is now the name of a legally recognized religion it will be interesting to see what happens when Disney/Lucasfilm tries to get the followers to stop calling themselves "Jedis". Good thing I stocked up on popcorn :)
    • "Scientology" is also both an established religion and a closely guarded trademark-copyright complex.

    • Could turn into something resembling a holy war -- a Jed-ihad?

      I'm sorry, I'll let myself out. No wait, I'll submit it as a screenplay for Episode 8 !

  • ...not this one in particular, but I get emails from them on how this stuff works.

    All I can say is: whoop-dee-shit, Disney. Someone calls a cardboard tube* a lightsaber, and you're getting pissy? Why? Who's making such a great profit off of these very, very flimsy things that anyone anywhere EVER would mistake them for the genuine article, and therefore a substitute to a licensed product that you might sell? Believe me, you are losing virtually NO profit from anyone in any event like this using somethin

  • Where are all these Internet billionaires when you need them? Just have on organize one of these things and have Disney take them to court (no settlements). Would you like the light sabre or the heavy sabre? I mean, if we can finally got Happy Birthday To You out of greedy corporate hands, maybe Disney can get a little Force push as well.
  • Dear Lucasfilm Lawyers:

    We have stopped using your trademarked terms Jedi and Sith, your laughably descriptive term "lightsaber" and even the obviously generic "Force". However, we are drawing the line at dropping the word "light", even when in combination with "battle" or "sword". Your resemblance to the Prince of Darkness does not give you a monopoly over light. Please fuck off now.

  • And the mouse they rode in on.

    The last Star Wars was crap anyway, and not worth the measly $2.00 I paid RedBox to see it.


  • "We immediately stopped using the words 'lightsaber,' 'Jedi,' 'Sith' and 'The Force,' " the group's co-founder told the technology blog of the San Jose Mercury News, saying they've still been "aggressively pursued" for the last three months.

    Episode 1: story opens with a trade dispute

    Episode 8: story:

    • opens with a cease and desist letter,
    • continues through multiple "aggressive pursuit" scenes and near escapes,
    • builds up to an exciting climax involving ... hmm, how about a fight between lightsaber-wielding cosplayers and many cloned attorneys []?

    Eh, I'll still go.

This restaurant was advertising breakfast any time. So I ordered french toast in the renaissance. - Steven Wright, comedian