The UK Supreme Court today upheld a 2009 appeals court ruling that Andrew Ainsworth, the engineer who designed the Imperial Stormtrooper helmets for George Lucas’ original Star Wars, didn’t violate British law by selling copies of the helmets. Lucasfilm had already won a $20 million judgment against Ainsworth and his Sheperton Design Studios in California back in 2006, arguing successfully that Lucas already had figured out the look of the helmets before coming to Ainsworth to design them. In the UK, Lucasfilm had to prove that the helmets were works of art to qualify for copyright protection under the law. “It was the Star Wars film that was the work of art that Mr. Lucas and his companies created,” the justices wrote. “The helmet was utilitarian, in the sense that it was an element in the process of production of the film.” Said Lucasfilm in a statement that the ruling “maintains an anomaly of British copyright law under which the creative and highly artistic works made for use in films — which are protected by the copyright laws of virtually every other country in the world — may not be entitled to copyright protection in the UK.”
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