(Source: telegraph.co.uk) George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars film franchise, has turned to the Court of Appeal to prevent one of the originators of the Stormtroopers from selling replica costumes.

Prop designer Andrew Ainsworth, who helped manufacture the helmets and suits for the first film in 1977, now sells replicas from his studio in Twickenham, south west London.   Lucas, the creator of the sci-fi series, had tried to stop him last year in a multimillion-pound battle at the High Court.    But a judge ruled that the suits were not covered by copyright law because they were not works of art and a £10 million damages award against Mr Ainsworth in the US could not be enforced in the UK.

Lucasfilm has now brought an action in the Court of Appeal to try to prove that the Stormtrooper suits are sculptures and therefore works of art covered by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act.    Lucas’s company is also claiming that an English court should allow the US court jurisdiction in cases involving internet trading even though the trader may not have a physical presence in the foreign country.

Michael Bloch QC, representing Lucasfilm, said all the characters in the Star Wars series were conceived by Mr Lucas.    Artists used conventional techniques such as drawing, painting and sculpting to give a visual representation for prop makers to construct the finished product.    Mr Ainsworth produced the first Stormtrooper helmet in plastic by making a mould using a clay model formed by another prop artist.

The Stormtrooper armour was first sculpted in clay by Brian Muir, a sculptor from the production company’s art department.   Again, Mr Ainsworth used casts taken from these models to manufacture the plastic suits, said Mr Bloch.

When the first film was a worldwide success, Lucasfilm built up a licensing business for the manufacture of reproductions of the Stormtrooper helmets and armour.    Mr Bloch said Mr Ainsworth had kept the original moulds and started selling versions with the US being his largest market.   He said the English judge had found that Mr Ainsworth had a defence to breach of copyright because he held that the Stormtroopers were not works of art.

”The question arising on this appeal concerns the scope and meaning of sculpture for the purposes of the Act.”    Mr Bloch said if the High Court judge’s approach was right, none of the clay sculptures, plaster shapes or fibreglass tools would qualify as sculptures under the Act.

”He erred in holding that it is an essential requirement of every sculpture that it have artistic character, in that it must have, as part of its purpose, a visual appeal in the sense that it might be enjoyed for that purpose alone.”    Mr Bloch said that this interpretation would lead to the result that statues of the Virgin Mary commissioned by churches and sold throughout the world would not be seen as sculptures because their primary purpose was non-artistic – as a focus for prayer.

”On the erroneous approach of the learned judge, arguably the most famous sculpture in the world, Michelangelo’s Pieta in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, would also be disqualified for the purposes of the Act.”

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