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Story of Case Study

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The Copyright Law represents an important advance in the regulation of copyright, in its definition of what is allowed and prohibited as a reproduction and what civil sanctions to be applied to offenders (Trimble, 2017). Copyright is the right to copy, that is, authors of original works has full right to control their content. Therefore, reproduction by any means is prohibited without prior authorization. Copyright law recognizes two rights to the creator of a work, i.e. economic and moral rights. These are different in each country and do not grant protection of work across the world (Johnson, 2017). Copyright in the world has as its main reference an international treaty called the Berne Convention and the USA is a signatory to this treaty. The treaty provides basic premises on the subject of protection of literary, artistic and scientific work. The protection applies to a particular country depending on the national laws. If the copyright law is violated either in terms of economic or moral, the law gives the right to original artists to ask for compensation for the damage that derives from it. Given the law, the report explores the case study of Star Wars vs. Battlewars to assess the adaptation of the law and shortcomings.

Story of Case Study

In the year 1978, one of the most controversial copyright cases occurred between 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios. 20th Century Fox was the producer of Star Wars who sued Universal Studios, the producers of the original series Battlestar Galactica, for supposedly stealing Lucas’s work (‘Famous copyright cases’, 2016). A case that ended with an agreement based on a reasonable and common-sense decision. Star Wars is a media franchise belonging to the genre of epic space opera, devised by the American screenwriter, director and film producer George Lucas, whereas Battlestar Galactica is a science fiction story told in two television sequences, the first produced in the late 1970s, Battlestar Galactica. Battlestar Galactica came about after the overwhelming success of George Lucas’ Star Wars in 1977 (‘Famous copyright cases’, 2016).

It seemed to the Star Wars producer 20th Century Fox that this new entertainment play had several references to work of the Universe created by Lucas. For the reason, the producer decided to sue Universal Studios for its play Battlestar Galactica. This was the well-known case of copyright infringement involving a lawsuit where the producer alleged up to 34 ideas ‘stolen’ or too similar to the series of Star Wars (‘Famous copyright cases’, 2016). Among the ideas, the Star War producers argued that the central conflict of both stories is a war between the democratic forces and the totalitarian forces of the galaxy. Also, the appearance in both productions of a friendly robot that aids the protagonists has similarities. Moreover, it is also presented that the story of a relationship between the hero’s friend and the offspring of one of the leaders of the war has a striking resemblance. Imperatively, the similarity in a scene in the canteen from Star Wars and a casino from Battlestar play has similar background music and non-human creatures. Furthermore, it was also argued that there is a similarity in the original draft of a character’s name Skyler from Battlestar with another Skywalker from Star Wars. Noteworthy, a similarity between Star Worlds (original title at the beginning of Battlestar) and Star Wars was also reported. The list moved up to 34 arguments with which the lawsuit took shape (‘Famous copyright cases’, 2016).

Before this, Universal Studios alleged through Glen Larson, the creator of the series, who took into account not to ‘borrow’ apparent references to Star Wars as the distinctive sabers of the Lucas film and that his work was thought long before from Star Wars (‘Famous copyright cases’, 2016). Larson would also comment that he came to have a previous encounter with Gary Kurtz, producer of Star Wars, where he told him about Battlestar’s approach. Also, Universal Studios presented a lawsuit and proved a counterclaim that the play Star Wars itself had taken the ideas from another movie of 1972, i.e. Silent Running (with the drones) or the series of Buck Rogers from the 1930s (‘Famous copyright cases’, 2016).

Consequently, two years later, the case ruling was made in the support Battlestar Galactica, when both producers decided to settle out of court with a logical idea, and that is, that the two works are of a nature of science fiction and are not derived, copied or part of the any of previous movies or series (‘Famous copyright cases’, 2016).


Throughout history, there have been infinite demands derived from probable copyright infringements, plagiarism or even for details that referred to previous work in the cinema. For the U.S., article 28, the law protects any original work that is fixed on some tangible medium such as music, drama, literary, intellectual or any artistic work. This protection is for both unpublished and published work (Trimble, 2017). The case that the report is dealing with today has been important for its importance, its resolution and for the studies and the productions that were behind it (Woods, 1979). Given the case, the law presents that copyright infringement has occurred since there is the fact of using publicly, in any way, without having required prior consent, the work of others, which is the object of protection according to the law. In this context, two types of copyrights are considered, i.e. economic and moral (Hatch, 2006). A right of an economic nature refers to the possibility of exploiting one’s creation obtaining every possible benefit and return on capital. This right is substantiated, normally, in the publication of the work and the eventual sale of copies or any case in the making of a profit, in the realization of exhibitions, concerts, paid downloads, etc. Nobody can, therefore, appropriate the work of others to publish it or to derive another economic advantage from it. Secondly, the right of a moral nature is a matter of public recognition of one’s quality as the author of the work. Nobody can usurp the creation of others by obscuring the name of its author and / or replacing it with the name of another person. You must always indicate the name and surname of who created a work of art, literary, photographic or musical must be (Madonia, 2016).

In any case, the breach of copyright law exists since the 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios both have reproduced the work of another or some earlier movies in terms of both economic and moral rights. It is, therefore, an illegal activity that is configured by the conduct that violates the object of protection, that is, the right that falls on the work (Woods, 2019). As can be deduced, the emphasis is placed on human conduct that violates copyright law that aims to protect works. In this order of ideas, it is appropriate to remember the requirements for copyright protection to proceed and once determined, if the conduct that violates the right protected by the copyright regime occurs, the violation of copyright is configured (Madonia, 2016). Also, the author’s rights do not last forever, but the law stipulates their duration. The general term of the exploitation rights of the work begins when the work has been embodied in a tangible medium, it continues during the life of the author and in the case of US legislation, generally, for seventy years after his death. However, a transitory provision is introduced in the international law, which established that the economic rights of the works created by authors who died before 1987 would have the duration established in the Law 1879 on Intellectual Property, that is, 80 years. In short, although the term established in the current law is 70 years, a good part of the works has the protection of about 80 years after the death of the author. This is the general rule, but there are also some specials (Johnson, 2017). For example, if it is anonymous or pseudonymous works, the tenure is 70 years from the disclosure of the work. Given the law (national and international), the case study reveals a serious copyright infringement and for this, the court has decided in favor of Universal Studios. Under the law, the penalties would be applied to the 20th Century Fox. Once the existence of copyright on the work was verified, the investigation on the configuration of the infringement of copyright needed to be done that would have led to the determination of the unlawful conduct as an element of the assumption of consequent civil liability (Woods, 1979).

However, since the two parties have made an out-of-court settlement believing that the work of science fiction is always adapted or inspired by others, and therefore, there was no plagiarism (Madonia, 2016). Meanwhile, taking inspiration or respecting the authorship of the work does not mean being able to use it without the prior consent of the author. Although music, movies, books, videos, and other cultural productions are openly on the market, they are not free to use at any time (Hartnick, 1984; Johnson, 2017). In the case, the disrespect to work or copying of someone’s idea reflects the notion that both are derived from the fiction that was published through the centuries and did not exactly copied the main idea. For Bevill (1999), the aspects must be considered when determining whether an infringement of copyright occurred in the specific case or not, which establishes the illegality of the conduct that violates the copyright.


Given the case, it is evaluated the two parties have violated the copyrights of the original work done in the earlier years. Moreover, it is the elements of the case as presented in the lawsuit that allows the evaluation to presume the similarities between the original work and those illegally copied, as well as the probability of the defendant’s bad faith when committing the copyright infringement. The evidence shows the unlawful conduct that violated the copyright law and carried within itself the subjective ingredient of the assumption of civil liability. This reflects that it is important, then, when planning the content production, to understand exactly what copyright is and not only knows how to protect the content but how to avoid infringing on other people’s copyrights. However, the out-of-court agreement reflected the perception that the work of science fiction is always adapted or inspired by others, and therefore, there was no plagiarism and disrespect to the original work. 

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