‘Star Wars’ card game lawsuit produces copyright victory for Lucasfilm – The Hollywood Reporter


A California federal judge ruled that the creator of an app that allows Star wars fans playing a deck of cards from Sabacc violated the copyrights belonging to Disney’s Lucasfilm. In a summary decision issued Friday, the judge reserves the issue of intentional infringement to a jury.

Those who know the Star wars canon will recognize Sabacc as the way Han Solo won Lando Calrissian’s Millennium Falcon. The card game is – or was – fictional until Ren Ventures launched its Sabacc app just before the 2015 theatrical release of the force awakens. Then Lucasfilm went on the attack.

The defendant responded by questioning what had actually been filed with the Copyright Office for registration and by contesting the extent of Lucasfilm’s copyright ownership. Ren Ventures also noted the lack of any indication that the authorship was “made to be praised.”

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg does not find the challenge valid and determines that Star wars DVDs demonstrating what was filed adequately demonstrate what is covered (including the scenes where Sabacc is discussed). The judge also does not believe that the defendant’s use of copyrighted material is transformative and rejects a fair use defense.

Seaborg also discusses Star wars-Themed gifs circulating on social networks.

The judge decides that the presence of Star wars Lucasfilm’s no-objection images and dialogue on outlets like Facebook and Twitter do not mean the studio has waived the right to assert its copyright.

Ren Ventures, writes the judge, “claim they had no reason to believe that Lucasfilm had rights to the works because Star wars-themed GIFs, which do not clearly indicate copyright ownership, are widely available and shared among users of the Giphy website and various social media platforms. Conversely, the defendants also argue that they could not expect to be sued for infringement because Lucasfilm had authorized the same behavior allegedly infringed by others. Whether copyright protections can be ignored or undetected is not a strong indication that there are no such protections. Thus, while the defendants’ alleged reliance on Lucasfilm’s inaction regarding the alleged copyright infringement undoubtedly caused them prejudice in the form of having to defend this lawsuit, the reliance was unwarranted and self-inflicted harm.

But then again, the judge is not quite ready to rule out the possibility that the copyright infringement is innocent.

While it wasn’t reasonable for Ren Ventures to assume that Lucasfilm didn’t own Star wars– neighboring rights, the judge comments that “the proof of the knowledge by the defendants of the works does not allow to establish a real knowledge of the infringing activity. While the defendants arguably displayed reckless disregard or willful blindness in at least failing to investigate whether their conduct infringed Lucasfilm’s copyright, this is a question. of material fact duly reserved for the determination of a jury.

Here is the full decision.

The judge does not address the trademark issue, which is the subject of a series of separate arguments as well as a second trial where Ren alleges studio marketing of Sabacc for the recent Solo infringes its own rights in the mobile game.


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