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The new Star Wars intellectual property overlords at Disney are not screwing around when it comes to people posting leaked material, namely for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In fact, it’s a lesson that one poor bastard on ImageShack is learning the hard, potentially expensive way. The movie company is currently working to expose the identity of the person or persons responsible for leaking an image of villain from the upcoming film, and are taking the matter to court in order to do so. Disney has already had ImageShack remove the image, but that was just the tip of the legal iceberg. Under the eyes of the law, all of this could snowball into $150,000 damages.
The website Ars Technica is reporting that an ImageShack user by the name of "Darth-Simi" had posted an image of "a villain" from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which apparently also included a glimpse of the much-discussed cross-guard lightsaber (notably wielded in the trailer by the mysterious Kylo Ren). This really set Disney off into a litigious tizzy, as they immediately had the picture taken down and then even went so far as to file a subpoena under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act requesting that the Los Gatos, CA-based photo-hosting website turn over the personal information of "Darth-Simi." Basically, in addition to trying to find this one person, it also seems that Disney is throwing down the proverbial gauntlet when it comes to any other potential leakers. It seems many Bothans will die to bring us bits of info about Star Wars projects from this point on.
You may be asking yourself if such a thing is even legal, and the quick answer to that is "yes." While under Title II of the DMCA service providers like ImageShack are given a measure of protection against liability for the posting of copyrighted content, they are also legally obligated to remove it upon request. And yes, they must also adhere to subpoenas requesting users’ personal information when the infringing materials are posted. However, should the accused infringer in question be able to prove that the material does not breach copyright, then the service provider site can actually exercise a legal safe harbor to the embattled uploader. That being said, from sound of things, presumably never-before-seen "leaked pictures" from a huge motion picture like The Force Awakens will likely have little to no leeway in the old "fair use" loophole.
This is a problematic issue from both perspectives. On one hand, companies obviously should have the right to protect their own intellectual property and not have it finagled by some entitled insider, screwing up PR strategies. However, when big companies come after a random ImageShack user, it just looks elitist and petty; especially if Disney does ultimately pursue some "make an example out of them" strategy, seeking the full $150,000 in damages. From a fan perspective, such a thing could be damaging to the Star Wars brand and chip away at good will the industry has with the people.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens blasts to theaters like a light-speed subpoena when it hits theaters on December 18th.