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Radio Berkman 236: Star Wars vs Copyright

May 2nd, 2016

kalexandersonListen:or download | …also in Ogg

“George Lucas built a whole new industry with Star Wars.” says Peter S. Menell, devoted science fiction fan and a professor at the UC Berkeley School of Law, who studies copyright and intellectual property law. “But what funds that remarkable company is their ways of using copyright.”

And he’s right. A third of the profits LucasFilm pulls in from Star Wars has come from merchandising alone. Not ticket sales, not DVDs, not video games or books. Toys, clothes, and weird tie-ins like tauntaun sleeping bags and wookie hair conditioner.

But fans of Star Wars, and other stratospherically profitable creative universes, increasingly like to become creators within those universes. They write books, they make costumes, they direct spinoffs and upload them to YouTube.

And sometimes they make money.

How does law come into play when fans start to reinterpret intellectual property? We sat down with Menell to see where the tensions lie between the law, the courts, and the George Lucases of the world.

Reference Section

Creative Commons music used in this episode:
David Szesztay “Morning One”
Broke For Free “Something Elated”

Image courtesy of Flickr user: kalexanderson

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