Disney and Warner Chappell placed a copyright claim on Star Wars Theory’s Darth Vader fan film. Here’s a breakdown of what this means and Star Wars Theory’s response.
Update: Lucasfilm has since removed the copyright claim. Read the story here.
Last month, Star Wars fans were treated to the release of popular Youtuber Star Wars Theory’s critically acclaimed fan film, Vader Episode 1: Shards of the Past.
For those who have yet to see it, I would highly recommend checking it out, as well as reading our review of the film.
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If you are unaware of Star Wars Theory’s history, he runs a Star Wars-based Youtube page, which he first made back in July 2016. In less than three years, he has gained a significant following, amassing over 1.4 million subscribers, posting videos pertaining to Star Wars lore in the movies, shows and comics.
Last year, he announced he was planning to develop a Darth Vader fan film and had received a blessing from Lucasfilm to pursue it, although he was given several rules to abide by.
To make his film, which had a total budget of over $100,000, he was not allowed to raise the money through crowd funding, or monetize the film once it was published, meaning that he had to fund the money for the project himself and cannot collect revenue from the film once it was published.
As of now, the Vader fan film has over 6.8 million views on Youtube after being posted for three weeks, which Theory said would have earned him roughly $80,000 US through ad revenue if he had monetized it.
However, Theory stated that it was his dream to make this film and was fine with abiding by their rules, so he went ahead to fund and produce it himself. One of the things he did to produce it to was hire a composer to make an original score for the film, in the vain of John Williams’ score from the older movies.
In an update posted by him on January 14th, Theory notified his fans Disney and its partner company Warner Chappell placed a copyright claim on his film and will now monetize the film themselves and collect money from the ad revenue directly. Its reasoning was that one of the scores in the film used a rendition of the Imperial March score, hence giving it a right to the film.
On January 15th, he posted a second update video elaborating further on the situation. In it, he revealed the Disney and Warner Chappell, who possess the rights to the music from the Star Wars films, claim that although the score used in the film is not a direct copy of the Imperial March, it own the rights to the composition, and “that any covers, renditions, or re-recordings fall under their protected copyright.”
In other words, despite the fact that the film utilized an original score, because it was based off of the composition of the Imperial March, it still falls under Disney and Warner Chappell’s copyright, which it claims gives it a legal right to the film and its proceeds.
They did give Star Wars Theory the option to appeal the claim, however, he said that he is not going to do that because it would cost a lot of money in legal fees and if he does and it fails, which he believes it likely would, then they would claim the rights to the video, have it taken off of Youtube and potentially delete his entire channel.
Theory states in the video he does not plan on appealing it and will not fight the decision to claim copyright on his film and monetize it, with the revenue going to Disney. He adds that for him, creating the film was never about the money and did not plan on profiting from it, but rather to share his vision and entertain other Star Wars fans.
Additionally, he said that his plans for creating Episode II of the Vader fan film series will still go ahead as planned, but he does not plan on using any Star Wars themes or scores in the next one so that this does not happen again.
Since he does not plan on pursuing the appeal, all that this means is that going forward, ads will be placed on the Episode I of the Vader fan films, and Disney will collect the ad revenue, but Theory’s channel will remain unaffected and he will continue to produce videos and work on Episode II’s development as planned.
This is a sticky situation but Star Wars Theory says that he is at peace with it and will not fight the decision.
All this just demonstrates that he is clearly just a passionate fan who just wants entertain people and share his love of Star Wars, and personally, I look forward to continuing to supporting his channel, and await the release of Vader Episode II.