The long tentacles of Lucasfilm’s Intellectual Property arm are pretty much impossible to avoid, a fact a couple of Star Wars fans from Iowa recently learned the hard way.
Here’s the backdrop.
Marjorie Carvalho and her husband Justin run Star Wars Action News, a podcast dedicated to the wacky world of Star Wars collectibles. Recently, the couple posted a photo of a Star Wars action figure that they bought from Walmart on the podcast’s corresponding Facebook page.
“Have we known this figure was coming? I just found her at Walmart – no other new figures,” the post stated.
Sounds innocent enough, right?
But thanks to a shipping snafu, the action figure in question – Rey from the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens – was put on display a week before it should have.
Once the photo began to spread online, it wasn’t long before Lucasfilm got wind of it and had their legal team spring into action.
In a subsequent update to the original Facebook post, Justin relayed that the photos had been removed from Facebook due to a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) request from Lucasfilm and its parent company Disney.
What’s more, other outlets who posted the photos (even via Twitter) were also hit with takedown notices.
The owner of the StarWarsUnity Twitter account, for instance, published the following earlier this week:
This morning I woke up to numerous DMCA takedown notices on the @starwarsunity Twitter account, the Facebook account, the Google+ Page, and my personal Twitter for posting the image of an action figure that was legally purchased at Walmart. My webhost also received a takedown email from them with a threat of a lawsuit of the image wasn’t removed. I of course removed the image because I can’t afford to be sued by a toy company who likes to bully Star Wars fans.
As Ars Technica points out, “Disney does have a copyright in the appearance of an action figure it produces, as well as the packaging,” but this is hardly the appropriate way to handle things from a PR perspective. For starters, legally going after your most passionate fans seems like a bad idea all around. And second, once something pops up online, it’s almost impossible to scrub it off online completely. If anything, attempts to do so might only increase the level of unwanted attention on it.
All that said, there is a reason why Star Wars fans might want to steer clear of viewing any photos of Rey. As it turns out, the packaging itself gives away something in the film, which is perhaps another reason why Lucasfilm was so quick to demand its removal.
We don’t want to play the role of spoiler for you, but if you’re interested in checking out what the character and packaging looks like, you can check it out over here via Imgur.