Stormtrooper Helmet Maker Wins Legal Battle

A British prop designer can continue making and selling replicas of the iconic Stormtrooper helmets after winning a legal battle against Star Wars creator George Lucas. As Steve Inskeep and Mary Louise Kelly report, the U.K. court ruled there was no copyright infringement because the replicas were not works of art.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

A legal faceoff between George Lucas, the creator of "Star Wars," and one of the prop makers from that project has made its way to Britain's highest court. The prop maker is Andrew Ainsworth. He told the BBC he made many of the original costumes for the first "Star Wars" movie, which came out in 1977.

Mr. ANDREW AINSWORTH (Costume Designer, Shepperton Design Studios): I think we made 200 characters for the film. Stormtroopers, Tie pilots, X-wing pilots for Luke Skywalker - all sorts of characters.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

This battle was over one particular costume for characters: The Imperial Storm Troopers.

(Soundbite of movie, "Star Wars")

Ms. CARRIE FISHER (Actor): (as Princess Leia) Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?

Mr. MARK HAMILL (Actor): (as Luke Skywalker) Huh? Oh, the uniform. I'm Luke Skywalker. I'm here to rescue you.

KELLY: Here to rescue you from the actual stormtroopers, Darth Vader's minions who wore that classic white-armored uniform.

INSKEEP: For years, Mr. Ainsworth used his original prop-molds to create replicas that he sold to "Star Wars" fans around the world. The Stormtrooper helmet was one of his most popular items.

Mr. AINSWORTH: To me, it isn't any more important than all my other products.

INSKEEP: George Lucas thought differently. His company, Lucasfilm, sued Ainsworth for copyright infringement.

KELLY: And Lucas won his case in the U.S. But yesterday, the British high court ruled in Ainsworth's favor. Now he can continue making and selling his replica "Star Wars" Stormtrooper helmets in the U.K., Europe and the rest of the world, just not here in the U.S.

The ruling was based on the fact that in the U.K., the helmet replicas are not protected by copyright law because they're not considered works of art -sacrilege.

(Soundbite of laughter)

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