When it comes to Star Wars, both Lucasfilm and Disney have shown themselves to be perfectly insane when it comes to IP protectionism. Examples of this are legion, and neither company has come out of them with a stellar or fan-friendly image, generally speaking. That is probably why when Toos, the guy behind the quite popular Star Wars Theory YouTube channel, decided to put out a Darth Vader fan-film, he went out of his way to attempt to follow all the rules.
When he first began to make the Vader film, he contacted Lucasfilm who gave him their blessing to make it, as long as he made it without crowd funding and left the video un-monetized, meaning that no ads would run on it, hence there would be no revenue to collect from it.
These rules themselves don't make it easy for fan-films like this to exist. The production costs for Toos' film ran in the six-figures. Without the ability to run ads on the film himself, or crowd-fund the production costs, Lucasfilm's rules almost feel like a test of Toos' personal fandom. If so, it was a test he passed with flying colors, having completed the film and releasing it in January. It has been viewed over seven million times at this point.
Which probably makes it really annoying that Disney claimed the video on YouTube due to the inclusion of a short cover of the Imperial March being in the film and then subsequently decided to layer its own advertising all over the video.
Earlier this week, Theory posted a video saying that Disney and their partner company Warner Chappell had claimed that because the custom score used in the film used a rendition of the Imperial March score, then it was in violation of their copyright policy. They used this copyright to claim that the entire film was now their intellectual property and were now going to run ads on it and collect the revenue themselves.
Now, Toos could have appealed the claim, of course, which would have kicked off a claim/counter-claim routine that perhaps would have ended in a federal court filing. Given the money Toos already sunk into all of this, he produced a video instead saying he was just going to lay low on the whole ordeal.
Which is when, somewhat unexpectedly, Lucasfilm decided to get involved.
Yesterday, on January 16, Star Wars Theory posted another update video on his channel regarding Disney’s copyright claim, but this time it was good news. According to him, after a backlash from Star Wars fans, Lucasfilm stepped in and told Disney that Theory made the film under a certain set of rules and that they needed to release the copyright claim that they placed on the Vader fan film.
Which, yes, brings all of this back to where it was before Disney decided to claim the entire work of a fan-film over one of the most recognizable and widely available songs in any musical score on the planet. And this was, by the way, after Disney initially refused to back down at the request of Toos.
So...welcome to the light side of the force, Lucasfilm?