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Seiler v. Lucasfilm

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
808 F.2d 1316 (9th Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 826 (1987)


Lee Seiler (plaintiff), a graphic designer, accused Lucasfilm (defendant) of copyright infringement with regard to machines called Imperial Walkers depicted in The Empire Strikes Back. Seiler claimed that Imperial Walkers were copied from science fiction creatures he created and published in 1976 and 1977 called Garthian Striders. In 1981, Seiler obtained a copyright on the Garthian Striders, depositing with the Copyright Office “reconstructions” of the originals as they as had appeared in 1976 and 1977. Lucasfilm argued that Seiler did not obtain his copyright until after The Empire Strikes Back was released and there is no evidence that Seiler created the Garthian Striders prior to The Empire Strikes Back. The district court held an evidentiary hearing on the admissibility of the “reconstructions” of the Striders. It found that Seiler had lost or destroyed the original drawings of the Striders in bad faith and under the best evidence rule, the reconstructions were not admissible. The district court granted summary judgment to Lucasfilm. Seiler appealed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Farris J.)

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