What is copyright?

Copyright is the legal right to protect the use of your work once your idea has been physically expressed.  The current copyright legislation in the UK is the copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Copyright laws lay out a framework of rules around how that piece of work can be used. It sets out the rights of the owners, as well as the responsibilities of other people who want to use the work. With the work you copyright there is lots you can do with it such as lend it to someone, share it online and prevent people from using it. For example, every time you watch a clip online, read a blog, or listen to music etc, you are somehow interacting with copyright in some way.

Below is the link to the copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Lucasfilm vs Ainsworth’s


Lucasfilm vs Ainsworth’s was a 2011 court ruling by the UK Supreme Court. The case was over an intellectual make of Lucasfilm’s Stormtrooper costume by model maker Andrew Ainsworth. Ainsworth argued that the helmets, that he carried on making and selling, were functional props covered only by design right legislation, as opposed to Lucasfilm’s declared that they were sculptures or art which fall under copyright law. Design right protection stands for 15 or 10 years, However the  copyright protection can last much longer.

Case Background

The Stormtrooper character was first shown in the film Sart Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The character was created by George Lucas, made by artist Ralph McQuarrie, sculpted by Liz Moore and Brian Muir and molded from the existing designs by Andrew Ainsworth. Before the case had come to court, Ainsworth had sold many replica of the Stormtrooper outfits online for years. This caused Lucasfilm to sue for infringement of copyright. In 2006 the case was in the US courts and Ainsworth did not defend himself. This meant the USA District Court for Central District of California was in favour of Lucasfilm and awarded them $20 million in compensation.


In 2011 the Supreme Court ruled that the Stormtrooper helmets could not be considered a sculpture of the purposes of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988. On the issue of the justiciability of a foreign copyright claim, the court ruled that providing that there in personam right over the defendant and that the English court does not have rights in this area. On this point the case was then cancelled from British South Africa V Companhia de Mocambique that showed the general principle that English courts did have no jurisdiction to entertain an action to decide the title and which where claims applied to foreign intellectual property rights.

As part of their conclusions on the justiciability question, Lord Walker and Lord Collins sated:

“We have come to the firm conclusion that, in the case of a claim for infringement of copyright of the present kind, the claim is one over which the English court has jurisdiction, provided that there is a basis for in personam jurisdiction over the defendant, or, to put it differently, the claim is justiciable. It is clear that much of the underpinning of the Mocambique rule and the decision in Potter V Broken Hill pty Co LTD has been eroded. All that is left of the Mocambique rule (except to the extent that it is modified by the Brussels I Regulation) is that there is no jurisdiction in proceedings for infringement of rights in foreign land where the proceedings are “principally concerned with a question of the title, or the right to possession, of that property.”

Then went on to state:

“The basis for what remains of the rule was said by the House of Lords in the Mocambique case to be that controversies should be decided in the country of the situs of the property because the right of granting it was vested in “the ruler of the country” and in the Hesperides case to be the maintenance of comity and the avoidance of conflict with foreign jurisdictions. It is possible to see how the rationale of the Mocambique rule can be applied to patents, at any rate where questions of validity are involved.”