back to article UK judges reject Lucas' appeal in Star Wars helmet case

A trio of senior UK judges have rejected George Lucas' claims that a propmaker for the original Star Wars film had breached his copyright by selling Imperial stormtrooper outfits. Shepperton-based Andrew Ainsworth made the helmets for the original Star Wars movie - which was largely filmed in the UK. Over 30 years on, he now …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The US courts should pay costs for trying to impose their civil judgements in a foreign country.

    1. peyton?
      Paris Hilton

      Not so fast!

      That money is needed by the US judicial system's secret plans to try and take over the world!! They slyly siphon off money from other countries this way. In 10,000 years, the UK will be completely bankrupt MWAHAHAHAHA.

      Actually, George Lucas is a US citizen. He sued someone - not a US citizen - in a US court and won. The foreign court decided not to uphold the US court's decision. (I know I know - too simple right? I prefer my elaborate Dr Evil-esque scheme as well...)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      The US Courts aren't trying to enforce anything, Lucasfilm is. As England and the US (except Louisiana) are common law jurisdictions, it's not at all unusual for a plaintiff who's secured a judgement in one to try and enforce it in the other:

      But it's at the discretion of the courts in the other country to allow the enforcement of the judgement, which they can reject if they feel their law is not close enough to that of the original jurisdiction. That's exactly what's happened here..

      1. Shady

        Isn't the UK already bankrupt?

        TB and GB made sure of that

    3. Andrew_F

      Re: Costs?

      Given the issue of English libel law, that could backfire severely if it were possible.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Andrew Ainsworth to be Extradition to USA

    Next up, Andrew Ainsworth will be extradited for misuse of a computer (selling stuff over the Internet that US claims is covered by copyright involving computers located in the USA). USA will says that he has done $10 million in damages to the US! The crime is therefore serious enough to require extradition WITHOUT EVIDENCE and WITHOUT CHALLENGE as per the treaty that Labour negotiated!

    And extradition will ensue, which will be fought in the UK.

    The Home Secretary, Alan Johnson MP, will say, sorry his hands are tied, he'd love to help but can't. He will however permit a judicial review of the shape of the rubber stamp he uses to stamp approval on the extradition. And a challenge on whether the extradition will risk bird flu infections by his friend Bob. Bob will come back and report, no, bird flu is no grounds for refusal.

    Stampy stampy, extradition approved.

    1. Adam Salisbury

      Except for one thing...

      Andrew didn't perpertrate a crime he then confessed to against the US governement, nor did he hack Lucasfilms IT in the process. If that WAS the case the treaty could be made of shit (which it is) and written in crayon (which is isn't but it may as well be) and the US could still extradite him with the most fair and UK-favourable policy ever conceived.

      Now get back under yer bridge or go post on a McKinnon related story

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        "Andrew didn't perpertrate a crime he then confessed to against the US governement, nor did he hack Lucasfilms IT in the process."

        He misused a computer to cause $10 million worth of damages in the US, and he admits freely to selling these Trooper costumes on the net.

        "Now get back under yer bridge or go post on a McKinnon related story"

        No, I'm happy to draw parallels thank you.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      IT Angle

      Re: Andrew Ainsworth to be Extradition to USA

      Anonymous Coward Posted Wednesday 16th December 2009 15:44 GMT --- Andrew Ainsworth will be extradited for misuse of a computer (selling stuff over the Internet that US claims is covered by copyright involving computers located in the USA). USA will says that he has done $10 million in damages to the US! The crime is therefore serious enough to require extradition WITHOUT EVIDENCE and WITHOUT CHALLENGE as per the treaty that Labour negotiated!

      Well, to be fair, one just has to go to the Internet and see the items being sold - there is plenty of evidence. If Andrew Ainsworth is not paying a royalty for something designed by someone else under their direction (i.e. George Lucas) for a specific purpose (i.e. Lucas's movie) - then Ainsworth is obviously in trouble for theft for each replica that he had created & sold.

      If people suggest that Ainsworth should not be prosecuted, then this is a larger issue where people basically can't produce movies in the U.K without having their ideas stolen. If that is really what people think, then that's OK - no more movies need to be produced in the U.K. (even U.K movie producers may choose to move out of country.) The possible negative effect to the U.K. economy is tremendous for this line of thought.

      There has long been extradition treaties between nations - long before the liberal Labour party and a liberal G.W. Bush had been elected to positions of power (by people failing to have a conservative conscience regarding the rights of individuals in their nations.) This is a silly line of thought, regarding this specific case.

      Regarding the rights of nations and treaties: the more authority people give to any government, the fewer rights people have; when nations sign treaties, they sign away the rights which were taken from their citizens to other nations.

      Governments do not have the ability to grant rights - rights are granted by God to people and people have unlimited rights without government. Governments only have the ability to take rights away from people, via legislation and legislation enforcement via the power of the gun.

      The process of protecting the rights of one person through the infringement of those rights by another person eventually requires the extraction of rights from the infringer.

      The IT angle: there is none - Star Wars and Andrew Ainsworth have little substantial to do with the IT industry.

      Just the world wait for the Global Warming treaties: nations signing away some of the limited number of productive working hours of the lives of their citizens to transfer that, in the form of money, to foreign nations.

      It only gets worse from here...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Your post was worth reading (barely) but then BAMM "rights are granted by God" you proved to be a crack pot.. oh well.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Oh dear

    I can see Mr. Lucas' point in that the storm trooper image is clearly bound to the Star Wars bandwagon. Sounds like he should have been a bit more careful with the contract that was negotiated with Mr. Ainsworth all those years ago.

    Oh well, I'm sure he's not short of a bob or two.

    As for the "you should implement this ruling that was made in an American court..." - You gotta love the yanks, bless 'em.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      ...George Lucas has never been that financially shrewd.

      After he completed filming the original he had all but run out of money and thought Star Wars was going to flop on release and so did everyone else involved.

      But not Mark 'Luke Skywalker' Hamill who said to George: "I know things are tight so I tell you what. Don't worry about paying me, I'll just take 1% of whatever it makes (you stupid w4nker)" I added that last bit but I'm sure he was thinking something to that effect.

      Not a bad move for someone to make on their big screen debut. He hasn't needed to work for 32 years (and looking at some of the low budget crap he's been in since, I wish he hadn't bothered)

      It seems there is someone else who saw George Lucas coming a mile off.

      1. djack

        Wasn't it Obi-wan?

        I always thought it was Alec Guinness who took a percentage (you you seriously think that Hamil would have taken those shitty parts if he were loaded?) - I think that he also included a cut from all the merch stuff too.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Arse about face there.

        Actually, Lucas didn't need anyone to suggest that to him. He was actively trying to get anyone who would listen to take a percentage rather than a fee from the word go, as he was seriously strapped for budget.

        The musicians of the LSO, who played the music for the first film, were offered either a (perishingly small) percentage of the film or standard session rates for the work. Being hard-nosed professional musicians they had a long discussion, went for the fixed fee and have been kicking themselves ever since.

        I have this first-hand through family connections.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Har, har

    "This is not the judgment he was looking for" - very droll.

    The US really are screwing themselves up very nicely indeed. I just want to know how long it will be before they eat their own legal tails.

  5. Jelliphiish
    Thumb Up


    strange, this didn't seem to take much effort to say no. and be upheld.

    i thought we were the 51st state of the union now and the legal jurestriction was under the dominion of the US of A...

    why isn't this man being transported to the colonies to be reamed by their justice's processes?

  6. alain williams Silver badge

    Extradition shortly ...

    Wait 'till the US is granted an extradition against Andrew Ainsworth - something that the UK courts will not be able to prevent -- thanks to the supine laws that were agreed by Tony Blair as part of his George Bush ass liking.

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Ass liking?

      ... close enough.

  7. Andy Mc

    @AC 15:16

    erm, it's Lucasfilm trying to impose US judgements here, not the US courts....

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Proof yets again...

    The Yanks think their law is world law.

    " Lucasfilm's claim that the English courts should allow the US courts jurisdiction in cases involving internet trading,"

    1. Joe Blogs



      The Yanks think their law is world law.

      " Lucasfilm's claim that the English courts should allow the US courts jurisdiction in cases involving internet trading,"


      But don't forget, the yanks do own the interweb...

    2. Deadlock Victim

      Change the law...

      If you don't want foreign judgments to be enforceable in the UK at all, maybe you should change the law instead of bitching about people trying to enforce their (perceived) rights.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Anonymous Coward - Costs?

    As far as the average American is concerned the world is divided very simply - the USA (land of the free - kind of), its vassals (including the UK - free as long as you do as you're told), and its enemies (you won't do as you're told so we may have to invade and/or bomb you into 'freedom').

    So it's probably a total mystery to them why a court in what is fast becoming a non-voting 51st State should be allowed an opinion of its own - especially after the events of the Mackinnon case.

  10. Flugal


    How on earth cany anybody other than Lucas be responsible for paying the costs of the case?

  11. Gulfie
    Thumb Up


    ... should be paid by the person who decided to pursue this case.

    Maybe George can raise the money by using his private jet to fly an old man and his apprentice, who have no cash to hand at the moment, across the world to a country that strangely seems not to exist any more...

    Nah, George is loaded. Just pay up, learn the lesson, and move on.


  12. ratfox


    Honestly, I don't really understand the decision of the UK court. Without undue love for Lucas, it does seem to me that nobody would buy these costumes if they were not part of the movies... Are the toys based on Star Wars and, say, Transformers movies, works of art? I am pretty certain you are not allowed to copy them... Is it just that they are expressing their independence from US courts?

    1. Neil Stansbury

      I agree...

      Especially since the Stormtroopers were designed from ILM drawings originally, and in English copyright law, a copyright in a drawing is infringed by manufacture of the depicted object:

      Where as the US it is the opposite!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        @Neil Stansbury

        "Especially since the Stormtroopers were designed from ILM drawings originally, and in English copyright law, a copyright in a drawing is infringed by manufacture of the depicted object:"

        Hmm, it's in Wikipedia, must be correct, full and decisive then. Thank Heaven we can ditch all those libraries and journals, learned men and evil lawyers. Sounds like I could make a fortune from a few back-dated drawings or even some new ones.

        1. Neil Stansbury


          Well AC, if you'd like to purchase the full legal report so you might become one of those educated and "learned men", then please feel free:

          Alternatively you might like to read the reference reports from the Parlimentary Stationary office here:

          and then focus your inadequate and uneducated little brain on Section "6. Ideas and expression".

          Of course I personally would hold out much hope of it meaning you'd engage your brain before your mouth in future - but it is Christmas - so here's hoping.

  13. Stone Fox


    "that the English courts should allow the US courts jurisdiction in cases involving internet trading"

    And why exactly should we do allow foreign jurisidiction (from a fairly corrupt legal system I might add) over our own?!

    1. Anonymous Coward



      As someone above already mentioned: We actually have the same Common Law as the States (except Louisiana...). It's virtually identicle in the essence that is based on precedents.

      My question to you is: do you really think the UK law system is any different?? Nope.

  14. Eponymous Cowherd
    Thumb Up


    Full steam ahead with my Dalek production line, then.

    1. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

      Registered design

      You want to make sure that the Dalek shape is not a registered design owned by the BBC or someone.

      This advice is worth exactly what you paid for it. IANAL and may be talking total legal bollocks.

  15. Tim 8

    The UK courts are without flaws?

    The US court bashing might be easier to take (though misguided) if the UK wasn't burdening the world with their libel laws.

    or, more generally:

  16. Lloyd

    Who on earth

    would want to buy a copy of Lucas's helmet?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    George by default

    Didn't George Lucas only get the merchandising rights due to a bad day by the Studio execs when they did the original deal.

    By any legal / industry standard relating to the movie world in the US, he got very very lucky to get any of the merchandising rights, perhaps he should be a little more generous to others who got lucky in a similar way (e.g. by being hired to make the suits in the first place).

    1. Eddie Edwards

      @ jeremy 3

      There was little or no precedence for movie merchandising before then. Lucas basically invented it. Not hard to get the rights for something that has no perceived value.

  18. Robert Grant Silver badge

    @Ghost 1977

    "...George Lucas has never been that financially shrewd."

    The guy who back in the day bought all the rights to the Star Wars merchandise from the production company? Yeah, what a muppet.

  19. Steven Jones

    Interesting subnote

    I picked the following up off the Outlaw site which may be of wider relevance.

    "Lucasfilm tried to argue that Ainsworth's web site counted as 'presence' in the US."

    "The Court of Appeal rejected that argument. "On the contrary, it might be said that the sheer omnipresence of the internet would suggest that it does not easily create, outside the jurisdiction or jurisdictions in which its website owners are on established principle already to be found, that presence, partaking in some sense of allegiance, which has been recognised by our jurisprudence," the judges said."

    So essentially what this says is that it isn't sufficient to publish a website on the Internet to have a presence in another country - in fact, the very nature of the Internet means that it is is technically difficult to avoid websites being visible in other jursdictions (blocking IP ranges isn't bullet proof in the regard for those who know how to gt round these things). The interesting point about this judgement in a UK court is how it applies to so-called libel tourists. There have been cases of no-residents of the UK suing companies who have published material outside the UK for libel on the basis that some UK readers can see it. Of course to raise such a case, the defendent has to have a legal presence in the UK (or there isn't anybody to sue), but if the website is deemed to not be considered to be a prsence in the UK, then how does that work?

    This is, perhaps, relevant to Peter Wilmhurst (a consultant cariologist in Shrewsbury) who is being sued in the UK by a US company (NMT Medical) over some critical observations of some of their research trials. These comments were made at a US conference, and he is being sued because an American website published these. NMT medical are suing him in the UK on the basis that the website could have been viewed in this country. If the court's judgement above is that such a website is not legally present in the UK (and is not aimed at a substantial UK audience), then that could have a big implication).

    ps. no doubt somebody will tell me that cutting & pasting text from another website is breach ot copyright...

  20. SteveK

    A question

    I've not seen an answer to this - who actually designed the helmets in question?

    If the helmet was a Lucas creation, and Ainsworth was given drawings and plans, I'd have thought the ownership of the copyright of the designs was with Lucas and noone would be allowed to legally make copies without licensing them.

    If, however, Lucas went to a local prop maker and just said 'make us helmets', and Ainsworth came up with the design and created them, then I'd say that without a contract to say that he couldn't do so, he would be the creator of the props and able to do what he wanted with the design.

    I thought I remembered reading that most of the primary cast were given a percentage of merchandising income in preference to cash since at that time merchandising was not foreseen to be the large revenue stream it is today. If so, they can hardly complain when someone else is making small amounts of income from merchandising?


  21. mommycalled

    More moronic EU excrement

    It seems that it is okay to the EU citizens to hack US computers, interfere with US business (read Boeing/Sun/Oracle/Microsoft), but when it is a US firm trying to get relief under EU laws then it's the big bad US interfering in the EU. Yes the EU has finished it's descent into a irrevelant third world country.

    1. SynnerCal

      Re: More moronic EU excrement

      Try reading the article, rather than resorting to DailyMailesque orifice-frothing - the EU's got little, if anything, to do with the story (other than that England is in the EU at the moment). In fact, note that this appears to be _English_ law rather than some UK-wide statute. So to echo the statement of a previous author - "Return hence to the bridge that you live under".

      As a disinterested party I've got to say I can see merit in both pro and con arguments. Yes, GL (or the original designer) should have copyright (and so there is clear copywrite infringement going on), on the other hand a US-hosted decision should in no way be automatically enforced in the UK - if the decision is legally justifiable over here then fine, otherwise it's quite right it should be denied. What I'd do if I was Mr Ainsworth is to approach Lucas with the idea of getting a profit percentage of current and previous sales in return for a license to continue production - no-one loses by this. Unfortunately, it sounds like US lawyers are involved in which case common sense is not a factor.

    2. Sir Runcible Spoon

      I like traffic lights

      "It seems that it is okay to the EU citizens to hack US computers, "

      who said that? I don't see the post.

      "but when it is a US firm trying to get relief under EU laws then it's the big bad US interfering in the EU."

      What fuck have the British courts got to do with the EU in this regard?

      "Yes the EU has finished it's descent into a irrevelant third world country."

      oh dear, where to start?

      You Sir, are a fuckwit.

  22. OrsonX

    We can't just stop, we have to slow down first

    Hmm, seems a strange judgement, the bit about Lucas not having copyright, given that the bloke is blatantly ripping off Star Wars. Of course, not enforcing US ruling in the UK is good.

    Now, where can I buy my Storm Trooper outfit?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I happen to agree with this judgement in part. I think that all the liable cases held in the UK are wrong I think that are outside of UK jurisdiction. If the converse were true then everything published on the internet would be subject to the rules of every nation on the Planet. So a UK holocaust denier (Legal in the UK (and USA I think) ) could be arrested in most European countries. GB and the USA are trying to impose extra-territorial jurisdiction in all sorts of ways. Garry McKinnons actions took place in the UK, so did the Natwest Three. The UK will prosecute is citizens for "sexual tourism" in foreign countries even where it is not against the law. Some Arab countries would execute Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten if he could be extradited, luckily for him he cannot. There are several cases where the USA has been prosecuting foreign arms dealers for supplying products (night vision binoculars) to third party countries against US export restrictions. Such restrictions do not exist in the countries where the transaction took place.

    I applaud this judgement, offences should only be prosecuted in the counties where the action took place.

    The second p[art of the judgement I am at a loss to understand. I understand that if I commission someone to make a work of art (A photograph) for example the copyright remains with the creator(photographer) in the absence an contract transferring those rights. Is Lucas claiming that the helmets are a work of art and that the creator has assigned those rights back to Lucas? It sounds that this court has decided that these helmets are not a work o . f art (I think this is probably odd) so the question of copyright does not arise.

    My money is on Lucas taking this to the next court, but if the next court was to agree that the helmets are subject to copyright then I still don't se how Lucas can win, it would seem that his case would be weaker to me

    {OT ish}We are all living in a police like state where everything we do is being controlled. I like to think that when I buy something I own it and if I want to modify it change it and re-sell it then that is my right. Sony have successfully brought prosecutions against companies in various jurisdictions against people who will sell a chip that will allow a user to modify their Play Station to play other region DVD's. Frankly once Sony sell the Play Station I believe they should have no further rights over its use or modification, it is none of their business.

    1. wim


      soon you will buy a license to use a playstation instead of owning it.

      Except when it breaks then you magically own it so you have to repair it yourself.

      A bit like DVD's: you can not make copies but when your DVD stops working you can not request a replacement.

      Lots of companies want to have and eat there cake.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        I like traffic lights

        "A bit like DVD's: you can not make copies "

        No, but you can make backups as long as you have the original DVD. (Making a 'copy' infers that you either don't have the original or are planning to sell the 'copy' - which is where the law-breaking comes in I believe)

        I have backed all my DVD's up to my network drive for convenience, all the DVD's are now in the garage. I don't think this is illegal, but ianal and not especially up-to-date with all the latest population control malarcky.

        1. Anonymous Cowardess

          Even no backups

          In Germany (and it's likely that it's an EU law) you're not allowed to make a backups if the DVD has efficient copy protection. The "efficient" part AFAIK hasn't been tested in court, but it probably boils down to "It says 'This DVD is copy protected' on the box." That's why buying and owning CloneCD etc. is illegal here.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Down

          Not it you're in the UK

          Technically, you're in the wrong if you bypassed any copy protection in order to make those backup copies.

          It's all in here if you can be bothered to try and work it all out:

          Essentially, in the UK "Fair Use" only allows you to quote or use small parts of works for specific activities such as a review or critique.

          Bypassing copy protection, selling anything that allows others to bypass copy protection or telling anyone how to bypass copy protection is illegal, your only defence is if you could not "reasonably know" that whatever you were using happened to do that - for example a PVR that would allow you to record a broadcast that had been protected and then make a copy onto other media - such as a DVD.

          In practice I doubt that the copyright holders are *that* bothered about people doing what you do as long as you don't sell the originals whilst keeping your "backups" or distributing your backups to all and sundry so you're probably fairly safe.

  24. Glyn 2

    who cares about the legal exactitudes

    Any court case for any reason going against that destroyer of souls george "merchandise me" lucas is a winner. The man's scum, after producing the prequel trilogy which destroyed the hopes and dreams of a generation with it's shoddy shoddy shoddyness and it's toy production like the george lucas family cameo figure set, the darth vader garden sprinkler and this nugget which is surely not suitable for children$ja=tsid:11518|cc:|prd:3433501|cat:Film+Memorabilia

    What am I saying, kids can't afford lucas toys, they're only there for collectors to not take out of the packet

    Not that I'm in anyway traumatised by the man's total lack of soul :P

  25. Stu 3


    If I remember correctly, the reason Ainsworth has been able to do this is that he did actually design the original helmets for Star Wars - based on a vague drawing by Ralph MacQuarie (who did all of the concept art for Star Wars). Lucasfilm then neglected to get some kind of deal over rights to the design (seeing as no-one realised it would spawn a billion dollar empire). That's why the question here is whether the design of the helmets are considered "art".

  26. Neil Wilson

    Is Lucas' helmet art?

    Would have been a better title, no?

    Except that it's clearly not Lucas' helmet otherwise he wouldn't have had to fall back on the weak 'art' line.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    AC: Crackpot

    Anonymous Coward Posted Thursday 17th December 2009 09:54 GMT --- Your post was worth reading (barely) but then BAMM "rights are granted by God" you proved to be a crack pot.. oh well.

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

    If rights are granted by people or government, then they are no longer unalienable, since they can be retracted by a later decree or law. The Creator is the difference between a subjugated people and a liberated people is where they get their rights from.

    After losing the revolution to the Colonies, one might expect that some Brits might be a little sore over Rights being given to the citizens in the Colonies by God and not by them.

    Funny how these things work: everything is OK if the Brits are in charge of the world, you're a crackpot if you believe that your rights are given by a higher authority than the government in the U.K., and people who may be stealing from the former colonies can hide in the U.K.since the theft occurs over a former subjugated people.

    People always want to get rid of God, once they figure out that He stands in the way of people desiring to thieve, subjugate, and kill other people.

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