The superfans that run Star Wars Action News, a podcast devoted to Star Wars toys and memorabilia collecting, fell afoul of their Lucasfilm idols by purchasing and posting to Facebook a picture of an action figure which shouldn’t have been released for sale yet.
The image was pulled down from the site’s Facebook page following a DMCA notice from Disney, which acquired Lucasfilm in 2012. The DMCA, or Digital Millenium Copyright Act, includes a mechanism by which copyright holders can alert social media sites, search engines, and other websites that they are hosting copyrighted material. Most sites including Facebook will remove the content and have a process by which the DMCA notice can be disputed.
The initial reaction to the DMCA was to blame Hasbro, the toymaker who produces Star Wars action figures.
Hasbro has just issued DMCA takedown notices on this account and @starwarsunity over the image of the Rey figure.
— Jerjerrod Conrellian (@ManaByte) December 9, 2015
However, information quickly came to light that the DMCA notices were sent by a firm called Irdeto on behalf of Lucasfilm and its parent company Disney. The reason given for the DMCA notice was: “A screen shot of an unreleased figurine for Star Wars: Force Awakens.”
As quoted in Ars Technica, Mitch Stolz of the Electronic Freedom Foundation feels the fans have a case of fair use, since they bought the toy from a store
Yes there’s a copyright, but I don’t think that entitles Disney and Lucasfilm to try to make that image disappear from the Internet… Someone may have screwed up, and violated an agreement as to when the toys would hit the shelves. But that doesn’t make a photo of a toy forbidden information.
Following the initial DMCA, additional notices were sent to others who posted the picture to their own Star Wars fansites or social media. There have been additional updates as well for Star Wars Action News, the site that originally posted the picture. According to their Facebook page, Disney first dropped the DMCA notice, returning the image to its post, but then resubmitted the claims, having the picture pulled down again. The resubmittal had the side effect of getting the person who originally took the picture banned from Facebook due to repeated DMCA notices against him.
This story has raised the concerns of Star Wars fans, many of which felt leery when Lucasfilm was acquired by media titan Disney. Although most already consider lawyers Sith Lords, the current consensus is that the DMCA notices against Star Wars Action news and others are an example of the Streisand Effect, which dictates that trying to prevent information from spreading on the Internet will result in it spreading much faster and farther.