Darth Vader!

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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Bluedigby
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Darth Vader!

Post by Bluedigby » Thu Feb 28, 2013 1:07 pm

Hello does anyone know if there is an infringement of copyright if you use a film image of Darth vader on a poster in relation to a comedy show? The words Darth Vader would also appear. The comedy relates to a childhood ambition and would not be passing off any service or product as being endorsed by Darth! If its not ok to use a film image, is it ok to use an artists impression/cartoon image and the words? Any advice much appreciated

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Thu Feb 28, 2013 5:27 pm

Hi Bluedigby,
Unfortunately each individual frame of a film is considered to be a 'work' so copying a substantial part of one (ie copying the central character in the frame for instance) would infringe copyright in the film. Here is the law:
Section 17 (4) of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988:
(4) Copying in relation to a film or broadcast includes making a photograph of the whole or any substantial part of any image forming part of the film or broadcast.
You might be OK with an artist's impression.
As far as the words 'Darth Vader' are concerned there is no copyright in them, but as you seem to recognise, the problem lies with them forming a trade mark which is registered in several classes, including posters. Therefore your use of the words on a poster would be grounds for objection by Lucasfilm under section 10(1) of the Trade Marks Act 1994.
10 Infringement of registered trade mark.
(1) A person infringes a registered trade mark if he uses in the course of trade a sign which is identical with the trade mark in relation to goods or services which are identical with those for which it is registered.
It doesn't require a claimant to show there is confusion or reputational damage associated with s 10(1) infringement.
You really have to examine why you want to use the Darth Vader character in this way. If it is to get greater publicity or some other direct advantage from the popularity or fame of the Star Wars character, then you can see why this might look like infringement.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

Bluedigby
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Post by Bluedigby » Thu Feb 28, 2013 9:10 pm

Thank you so much Andy for taking the time to reply so fully. To be specific, would it be ok to title a comedy show, unrelated in any way to Star Wars, "I would have beaten Darth Vader" and in the poster, promoting this show, pose with a replica darth Vader mask? Obviously that takes away the problem of the film image rights but leaves the issue of possible trademark infringement of the words Darth Vader? Given that its use is in relation to a comedy show discussing childhood ambitions and 80s pop culture, rather than science fi, would we still have a problem?

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Thu Feb 28, 2013 9:40 pm

Hi again Bluedigby,
What you are really asking is "Will Lucasfilm bother to chase me if I do this?" Which is something I can't answer, I'm afraid.
It is pretty unlikely they would ever get to hear about your posters, provided you don't post them on the internet as well, and even if they do, the most likely action will be a cease and desist letter from their solicitors, which if you comply with it, will probably end the matter.
But Lucasfilm are notorious for protecting their intellectual property so I wouldn't underestimate their determination to protect the Star Wars 'brand' from dilution.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

typonaut
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Post by typonaut » Sat Mar 02, 2013 9:49 pm

As Andy suggests in another thread (about Gremlins), why not just create your own character, who has some characteristics of Darth Vader, but who isn't a copy. There's a Mel Brooks film called Space Balls (I think) where the villain is named "Dark Helmet", for example.

Or, why not take a character from your local/cultural tradition who is a villain: "I would have beat Prince John in a sword fight" (Robin Hood), "That Ghengis Khan has nothing on my axe throwing", "The Big Bad Wolf, huh, I've got bigger ears!"...

These are safe to use because there is no copyright or trademark owner to chase you over infringement.
Any comment on this forum is just banter, it is not legal advice.

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