A Star Wars inspired fan has created a pretty amazing 3D printed lightsaber that can be made at home but will it lead to copyright infringement problems for him and people that want to create their own.
Sean Charlesworth, is a self described “3D modeler, 3D Printer, Fixer” and designs some pretty amazing 3D printed products that can be found on his website. Sean has been distributing code for a lightsaber that I have seen in some articles described as a Sith lightsaber. However, Sean does not always refer to his item like that and seems very careful not to do so. You can download the code for the 3D not-quite-but-come-on-we-all-know-its-a-lightsaber described as a “Custom Cutaway Saber Hilt” here. But, Charlesworth isn’t as careful on his website where he refers to the product specifically as a “lightsaber” as can be seen below.
Lucasfilm has been very protective of both the copyright and trademarks it has in “lightsabers.” Recently, we saw Lucasfilm go after a Kickstarter that was producing similar lightsaber products and it has sued other companies for selling knockoff lightsabers in the past. So I would expect Charlesworth to be receiving a cease and desist letter pretty soon. So let’s look at what potential legal calamities can beset Charlesworth and interested customers.
Calling the product a Lightsaber: Lucasfilm has a registered mark for LIGHTSABER and if it is used in association with products that are not actually officially licensed lightsabers it could be considered trademark infringement or even counterfeiting.
Making your own Lightsaber. Technically for Charlesworth and cosplayers this is copyright infringement but the defense of Fair Use is available and since you aren’t a big target, you are not likely to get in trouble.
Buying a copyright infringing Lightsaber. No problem here as purchasing items that infringe a copyright is not a crime nor does it create liability for the purchaser.
Mass producing and selling Lightsaber. This creates liability for Charlesworth for copyright infringement. While Charlesworth is not selling the code but giving it away for free it makes him less of a target but not receiving money is not a defense.
It does not help Charlesworth’s cause that he is using Star Wars‘ trademark on his website without any disclaimer that he is not affiliated with Lucasfilm. Charelesworth might need to rethink this business model before the real Sith shows up at his front door with a nasty letter or even a lawsuit.