Or “How I learned to stop worrying and love copyright lawyers.”
As a fan filmmaker, you constantly live in the shadow of Lucasfilm. It’s just a fact of life. You see, it’s only by their grace that we get to do what we do. Making movies with their characters means that they essentially own what we do. On top of that, many fan filmmakers used copyrighted music from the Star Wars movies.
On August 1, 2006 my Teaser Trailer for Revenge of the Spud was pulled by YouTube at the request of Lucasfilm.
Now, at this point it only had 1000 views and I felt that it was well placed as a parody. If you’re here you’ve probably seen the teaser and I would note that it’s all original footage, audio, and music created for my project. I was pretty upset because they hadn’t touched Spud Wars, my fan film that was clearly a copyright violator (with it’s use of the music from Star Wars). I actually went so far as to contact a lawyer. She’s family, but she’s a great lawyer none-the-less.
I posted my concerns on theForce.net fan film boards and quite a few others had gotten the same notice. It seemed like Lucasfilm was making a crackdown. For so long we had been allowed to make our little movies (and in some cases not so little movies) and Lucasfilm had looked the other way. In fact Lucasfilm seemed to encourage fan activities as it would appear that the zealot fan is good for business. A shift in policy by Lucasfilm would mean a major change in the fan community.
On August 3rd, Lucasfilm responded to what was going on. Someone had posted footage stolen from the official Star Wars site to YouTube and Lucasfilm brought down the hammer. Unfortunately, some innocent bystanders got crushed as well. Lucasfilm did issue a semi-apology to fans and had YouTube reinstate all fan films that had been removed.
Lucasfilm has been informed that YouTube recently removed from its site several fan-made Star Wars spoofs and parodies. We would like the fan film community to know that this was not done at our request. Apparently the action was taken by YouTube as a result of a misunderstanding of a request to remove an item containing material taken from starwars.com without our permission. We have asked YouTube to restore any works that they inadvertently removed.
Call it pessimism, but I was a little disappointed by the fact that no Lucasfilm lawyer saw my little movie, thought “Oh, that’s funny. Now where’s my copyright violation form,” and then had it pulled. I’ll just have to try harder next time to incur some corporate wrath.