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Profiting from Star Wars

I'm sure Lucasfilm loves the online world of Star Wars. They get tons of free publicity, as well as hanging onto fans of the franchise for years. I remember finding a chapter one day in my marketing class for my undergrad business degree highlighting Star Wars for it's "unique marketing plan" to keep the franchise alive after years of inactivity. There's much to be said for that, including the marketing wizards that enable webmasters and sites like us to use images, names and more from the franchise with few limitations, as long as we don't do it for profit.

Many times we get emails from up and coming fans who ask us how to make a cool Star Wars site. We often suggest our motto, "update the site, then update the site again," and also have to make a casual reminder that it's important not to profit from the site in any way.

So it causes many to ask: "Why are there ads on TheForce.Net?" Our simple reply is this: It would cost over $100,000 in hosting alone EACH YEAR for a site of this magnitude. We have a simple arrangement so that the revenue of the site covers the costs of hosting and related expenses of the site. In addition, we've even given almost $10,000.00 to charity this past Christmas because we realize that we cannot profit from Star Wars.

I have to say though that I didn't care for the ads on the Official Site that popped up recently. Although I don't like it myself, it may be intelligent for Starwars.com to have advertisements on their site, due to the overwhelming costs associated with staff and hosting a heavily trafficked-domain. I've always hate the ad banner load times and the stark contrast to the general 'feel' of their great site, but they serve a purpose in serving the online community more effectively. Imagine the benefit we the fans could get with the influx of, say, an additional million bucks to the budget of the Official Site. If of course, that's where they decide to direct the new revenue stream. More staff, more pictures, more set report, more updates, more coolness.

But anyone other than them who uses the trademarks of Star Wars for their own gain is in serious jeopardy of being shut down, as well as having an effect on the rest of the sites. Having Ebay-style profiteering, promotion of bootleg material, pocketing ad money for personal gain and other forms of profiting are all strictly forbidden in the current system. Some sites may try to get around the mandate by selling CDs with Star Wars content as well, including trailers, images and scripts. Ever wonder why we cannot sell TROOPS on video or the other selections in the TFN Theater? As much as we'd like to, it's just not possible.

From the Official Site (in the terms of use agreement): Your use of starwars.com must only be in a noncommercial manner. You cannot, without our express approval, distribute or otherwise publish any material containing any solicitation of funds, promotion, advertising, or solicitation for goods or services.

And that's more than fair. Sure, they've made a killing off all of us fans over the course of the last 25 years, but that gives us no right to make a gain off of their work. Perhaps some would disagree, but it's clear that LFL has the rights to the profits, and all income generated from their property. So in a word, don't pocket the money or it could affect us all.

If Lucasfilm decided to exercise their copyright rights on the Internet, all Star Wars fan sites that are currently pocketing money could be in jeopardy. It could be a catastrophe for Star Wars fandom, and something we definitely don't want to happen.

There's no doubt Lucasfilm loves the online world of Star Wars, despite the quirks and passion of the ever-evolving medium and webmasters. They've managed to breathe new life into a wonderful franchise and enabled us to use freely all sorts of materials with few limitations, as long as we don't do it for profit.

And not doing that will profit everyone.

Joshua Griffin

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