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George Lucas Wants You To Work for Him for Free:
George Lucas, ruthless ardent defender of his intellectual so-called property rights, is about to launch a redesigned website providing hundreds of Star Wars™ video clips along with the software to create mashups.
"Star Wars" fans can connect with the Force in ways they've only imagined beginning May 25, when StarWars.com launches a completely redesigned website that empowers fans to "mash-up" their homemade videos with hundreds of scenes from "Star Wars" movies; watch hundreds of fan-made "Star Wars" videos; and interact with "Star Wars" enthusiasts from around the world like never before.

With an innovative, interactive site that allows users to navigate to multiple "Star Wars" worlds, a new video focus, and groundbreaking "Web 2.0" features -- including a unique online multi-media mixing platform from Eyespot -- the new StarWars.com will unveil its redesigned website on May 25 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the "Star Wars" Saga.

Among the most compelling features of the newly redesigned StarWars.com is the incorporation of an online video-editing tool provided by Eyespot. It allows users to add their own video shots to more than 250 scenes and music taken from all six "Star Wars" films and create their own "Star Wars" movies to share with others.
For more of this story, click here. According the Wall Street Journal this morning, the fan-created videos will run along with commercials "with Lucasfilm and Eyespot splitting the proceeds." Asked about why Lucasfilm will allow this use of their images, a spokesman said, "If someone wants to commercialize it, that's where we've drawn the line." So it's OK for Lucasfilm to commercialize the creative efforts of Star Wars ™fans, but not the other way around.

But the laugh is really going to be on Lucasfilm because, as we all know, people won't invest scarce time producing creative works that others want to watch without the financial incentives provided by intellectual "property" rights granted for "limited times" (i.e. in perpetuity). So it is safe to predict that no one will contribute any mashups to the new Starwars.com website. Boy, will that be embarrassing for them!

PS: Don't Google™ "Starwars mashup" unless you want to see a bunch of amateurish uses of Star Wars™ clips, like this one, that are taking food out of the mouth of George Lucas, depriving him of the opportunity to commercially exploit his own us of Star Wars™ clips as mashups, and preventing him from raising the funds that are needed to make a watchable entertaining feature-length Star Wars™ film:

Stevethepatentguy (mail) (www):
One motivation is that this fills a hole in Lucas's arguement against fair use "the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work." (17 USC 107). The mash-ups don't impact the value of the movies, although Chad Vader, Day Shift Manager, ( http://www.splu.net/chadvader.htm )might.
5.24.2007 12:05pm
Esquire:
I found this commentary on fair use pretty amusing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJn_jC4FNDo
5.24.2007 12:26pm
anonVCfan:
5.24.2007 12:27pm
FC:
An equally accurate title would be "People want to work for George Lucas for free."
5.24.2007 12:51pm
Madogvelkor:
Knowing Star Wars fans, I suspect there are many thousands who would be happy to work for Lucas for free -- especially if others would see their work. Heck, there are probably a good number out there that would pay Lucas to work for him...
5.24.2007 12:55pm
Kent Scheidegger (mail) (www):
"...and preventing him from raising the funds that are needed to make a watchable entertaining feature-length Star Wars™ film:"

Randy, do you mean to say that the unwatchable, nonentertaining nature of all three of the second trilogy was due to a lack of funds? My theory is that the second was so inferior to first because of too much funding and technology. The focus on special effects caused the makers to forget about the basics of plot and character.
5.24.2007 1:00pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
At the risk of derailing the thread, I liked Episode III.

It had to be said...
5.24.2007 1:05pm
Dave N (mail):
David Chapman wrote,

At the risk of derailing the thread, I liked Episode III.

It had to be said...

I would note that there is no accounting for taste.

And who knows, George Lucas may even put the mashups behind a subscription-only firewall and have them in a format that will prevent copying onto YouTube. After all, he has to preserve the sanctity of the Star Wars brand.
5.24.2007 1:34pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
Maybe this is a sign that some balance is going to come into copyright law, for the same reason that it has always existed in patent law - major producers of "intellectual property" also use "intellectual property" as one of their primary inputs.

Since the major players are both buyers and sellers in patents, it is against their interests to have rules which are wildly inefficient in *either* direction. During the last century copyright terms have quadrupled, while patant terms have remained essentially stable (used to be 17 years from the issuance of the patent, now 20 years from the application date).

Up to this point, the "big guys" in copyright have mostly re-mixed marterial which is in the public domain. As they face more and more pressure to use more recent (copyrighted) material I expect they'll begin to see the virtues of a little more balance in copyright law.
5.24.2007 1:55pm
FC:
George Lucas invented the remix?
5.24.2007 2:02pm
KeithK (mail):

The focus on special effects caused the makers to forget about the basics of plot and character.


I blame it more on the fact that George Lucas can't write a screenplay to save his life. Let alone direct it.
5.24.2007 2:15pm
Dave N (mail):
I re-read my prior post. My apologies to Daniel Chapman for inadvertently calling him "David Chapman." While I certainly think the name "David" is a very fine name, and I am certainly sure there are many upstanding individuals named "David Chapman," I was likely thinking about "Mark David Chapman" when I goofed.
5.24.2007 2:44pm
pete (mail) (www):
As this is a legal blog, the classic fan film TROOPS needs to be mentioned. It is a "COPS" parody with Storm Troopers on patrol on Tatooine.
5.24.2007 3:23pm
Bruce:
So Randy you're saying George Lucas shouldn't try to prevent competitors from releasing unauthorized sequels/prequels? What *would* be a legitimate attempt to enforce copyright, in your view?

people won't invest scarce time producing creative works that others want to watch without the financial incentives provided by intellectual "property" rights granted for "limited times"

Of course that's not the argument for copyright or other IP. The argument is that you get more authoring/distribution/etc. from the incentive. You will always have some number of people inventing/authoring/etc. for free. The sarcasm is more biting if you mock the right argument.
5.24.2007 3:25pm
Shelby (mail):
The only virtue of Episode III is that it sucked less than Episodes I &II. And George Lucas has in fact written good screenplays - Episode IV and American Graffiti come to mind. Mostly he just writes the story, though, and I wish he'd shown the same restraint with Episodes I - III.
5.24.2007 4:43pm
Justin Levine:
Bruce:

I thought Randy's sarcasm was spot on.

Let's first admit that the argument that you will get more works both created and distributed under copyright schemes is simply an unproven assumption of faith. My own gut instinct says that a truly limited copyright scheme would be best for providing creative incentives, but that having no copyright at all would be far better for creation and distribution than the current overly restictive scheme that we have now.

The reason George Lucas wants to prevent anuathorized sequels/prequels to Star Wars has nothing to do with financial incentives. Rather, it is because he doesn't want to face the creative competition. He knows full well that there are plenty of people out there who could create far better Star Wars films than he can - so it would be embarassing for him. Much easier just to shut the whole enterprise down.
5.24.2007 5:22pm
Bruce:
Justin, it's true there's no control group here. For the same reason, there's also not much in the way of evidence that in the absence of copyright an equivalent number of works of equal quality would created and distributed to the same extent. But I don't think it's too big a leap of faith to believe that without copyright it's going to be tough to finance production, marketing, and distribution of Spiderman IV.

As for unauthorized sequels, I don't understand your point in light of your first argument. Lucas is authorizing use of the clips, as long as they aren't commercial. If he's afraid of competition, he's afraid only of *commercial* competition. But, according to your first argument, financial incentives produce exactly the same number and quality of works as would exist without financial incentives. So what's his reason for opposing commercial use, exactly?
5.24.2007 5:36pm
cmn (mail) (www):
I guess we'll find out now just how ardently ruthlessly imperialist Lucas really is. For any Sith worth his salt, the next step is obvious: having demonstrated his ostensible generosity in providing this sanctioned forum for fan-created derivative works, he now informs us that derivative works based on Lucasfilm property may henceforth be distributed only through that forum. This is followed by DMCA takedown notices to Youtube for any Star Wars related derivative works. Any recalcitrant rebels out there who try to resist the Empire with fair use arguments will be met with the Death Star argument: now that Lucas is making money from the ads on his sanctioned fan film website, distribution of such films anywhere else affects the market value of his work and therefore is not fair use.
5.24.2007 6:04pm
Justin (mail):
"Of course that's not the argument for copyright or other IP. The argument is that you get more authoring/distribution/etc. from the incentive. You will always have some number of people inventing/authoring/etc. for free. The sarcasm is more biting if you mock the right argument."

Actually, the argument isn't that more will be created. The argument is that that SO MUCH MORE will be created that the value of the ADDITIONAL creation will outweigh the value of the deadweight loss caused by the artificial monopoly. I tend to agree with Justin Levine (who is a different poster) and Professor Barnett on this one.
5.24.2007 6:25pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Actually, the argument isn't that more will be created. The argument is that that SO MUCH MORE will be created that the value of the ADDITIONAL creation will outweigh the value of the deadweight loss caused by the artificial monopoly. I tend to agree with Justin Levine (who is a different poster) and Professor Barnett on this one.

This seems like a common view, but I don't know that it's supported by reason. If someone is so good at creation, why do you need to use someone else's characters, etc.? Should Lucas have just used the Star Trek characters? It really doesn't make much sense - if you're a good writer, etc. you shouldn't need to take intellectual property from others. (Parody aside, which is usually allowable.) Perhaps creation would be stilted by allowing authors to take too directly from others.

I also find that those kind of IP arguments tend to seem socialist. It's the author's property, to do with what he likes. Why is it anyone's business what the public would do with it? Your car would make a good auxilary taxi for the old folks home and the homeless shelter, when can I pick it up? Surely you won't mind - it sitting in your driveway is what I would call a "deadweight loss".

Note that I'm not defending Lucas specifically here, he seems to hold some views and be involved in some activities that are not in agreement with the light side of the force.
5.24.2007 9:37pm
Justin (mail):
AP,

Your normative argument doesn't address the merits of the economic defense of IP law. Your Nozickian argument is fine, if unexceptional (and rejected by Nozick himself), but its dependant on your purely subjective concepts of morality and justice.

As far as deadweight loss, I am using the term exactly as economists would use the term.
5.24.2007 10:11pm
Kevin m (mail):
Definitely inspired by Stephen Colbert and this:

http://www.starwars.com/community/news/media/colbert.html

There were quite a few good entries, Arguably, George L's wasn't the best.
5.24.2007 11:10pm
Brian G (mail) (www):

Heck, there are probably a good number out there that would pay Lucas to work for him...


Don't give Lucas any ideas, that greedy wanker. I have bought the Star Wars movies 8 times over. The original VHS copies, the THX enhanced, that gold box set, the 1997 versions, the DVDs, the last set of DVDs with the original versions. I have given that guy enough money. (Of course, I'll buy them again on Blu Ray so whose the real fool here?)
5.24.2007 11:18pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Justin-

Your normative argument doesn't address the merits of the economic defense of IP law. Your Nozickian argument is fine, if unexceptional (and rejected by Nozick himself), but its dependant on your purely subjective concepts of morality and justice.

As far as deadweight loss, I am using the term exactly as economists would use the term.


I wasn't familiar with Nozick when you mentioned him, but after a little research I can't find anything to back up your assertion. He summarized property rights as: "From each as they chose, to each as they are chosen." (Parody of Marx.) In your scenario you are coercing the surrender of private property, it isn't a choice. It does say he got a little less hardcore as a libertarian later in his career, do you have evidence he changed his views as you stated?

As far as your economic argument goes, intellectual property often is not a true monopoly, there are many substitutes. In the case at hand you have competing Sci-Fi movies and universes - Star Trek, Aliens, X-Men, etc. - so Star Wars really isn't a monopoly. So my point that if you are talented at creation it is not necessary to have free access to the work of others still stands. The coerced socialization of intellectual property would seem to have the same effect as the coerced socialization of physical property - reduction in incentives to productivity, free riders, etc.
5.25.2007 3:55am
Justin (mail):
I don't think a quick google search of Nozick is effective at figuring out his particular views on a particular argument.

And whether, under your definition, IP is a "true" monopoly is neither here nor there as to whether IP creates deadweight loss, which it certainly does, and not even (legitimate) supporters of IP argue otherwise.
5.25.2007 10:19am
Blither (mail) (www):
Physical property is subject to scarcity. Information objects aren't. Would the old folks' home building their own duplicate of your car bother you, or deprive you of your transportation? No. Would strongarm tactics preventing them from doing so cause deadweight loss? Yes.
5.25.2007 4:20pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Justin-

I don't think a quick google search of Nozick is effective at figuring out his particular views on a particular argument.

Fine. If you believe he felt differently, cite it.

And whether, under your definition, IP is a "true" monopoly is neither here nor there as to whether IP creates deadweight loss, which it certainly does, and not even (legitimate) supporters of IP argue otherwise.

How so? If you don't have a monopoly there are other sources of product, so the price isn't inflated and there is no deadweight loss.
5.25.2007 6:49pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Blither-

Physical property is subject to scarcity. Information objects aren't.

It seems that information objects are subject to scarcity, because you're claiming certain people can improperly have monopolies on them. (I realize low-cost copies can be made.) If there truly was no scarcity, you would have no problem buying or creating your own original works.

Would the old folks' home building their own duplicate of your car bother you, or deprive you of your transportation? No. Would strongarm tactics preventing them from doing so cause deadweight loss? Yes.

The old folks' home building their own copies would deprive the car company of profits if done on a large enough scale. That's theft, free-riding, etc. - whatever you want to call it. And eventually it would seem to reduce incentives to design and create. So do you think automobile designers should have to give away their product for free?
5.25.2007 7:05pm
Guest12345:
Physical property is subject to scarcity. Information objects aren't.


"Physical property" is just information. The only difference between your car and a pile of dirt is the difference in information stored in the subatomic particles that make up the matter involved. As well, if information isn't scarce, why aren't we inundated with infinite numbers of fantastic works of art? Those who claim that information isn't scarce are greedily, and disingenuously, drawing the line in the place that most benefits them.

What I find to be universally true among the copyright abolishionists is that they want other peoples' information, but their information they insist on protecting under a different set of rules, eg. privacy.
5.26.2007 3:55am