Warner/Chapell Music Group Claim Youtuber’s $100,000+ Fan Film Revenue
By: Giovanni Arias
YouTuber StarWarsTheory’s fan film “Vader Shards of the Past,” was copyright claimed by Warner/Chappell Music (a Disney music publishing company) on Jan. 14. Essentially, this meant that they would be adding advertisements to the free movie, and all the revenue made from it would go to Disney. This left StarWarsTheory with two options: either allow the company to take over the film, or try to appeal the claim in court, risking the deletion of his channel if he were to lose the appeal. This prompted him to make a video addressing the dilemma, announcing his decision to allow Warner/Chappell to claim the revenue to avoid any risk of damaging his channel.
StarWarsTheory is a YouTuber who has garnered over 1.5 million subscribers since his start in 2016, making him one of the largest Star Wars content YouTube channels. It was in early 2017 when he was first contacted by the director of the fan film, Danny Ramirez, who asked him if he was interested to team up to make a Darth Vader film.
Early in 2018, StarWarsTheory decided to go through with the project. Following a failed attempt at funding the project through crowdfunding, he went to Lucasfilm to inquire about how he should go about financing this project. The rules set by Lucasfilm were to avoid crowdfunding and monetizing the video for profit. As long as these agreements were upheld, the YouTuber was told that he would be free to begin production. This left him responsibility of funding. He took money out his own pocket to gather over a hundred thousand dollars to film the movie. The film was adapted to be part of a web series rather than a feature length film. According to StarWarsTheory, this was to have a higher quality production with actual sets rather than public locations.
On its premiere on Dec. 21 the fan film saw immediate success, almost reaching the top of Youtube’s trending page and gaining over one million views in under 24 hours. It wasn’t until weeks later, on Jan. 14, that Warner/Chappel claimed the film for a section of the film’s music which was claimed to be part of the copyrighted track “Imperial March.” This led to StarWarsTheory publishing the video that sparked outcry from the Star Wars fan base criticizing Warner/Chappell and Disney for their “greed.”
Some even took to Twitter and other social media, offering their support to StarWarsTheory in any way they could, including free legal representation. Several of these tweets were acknowledged by StarWarsTheory himself, taking stock his options, if the opportunity to appeal the claim on his film were to arise.
Turmoil spread throughout the internet, prompting several other Star Wars YouTubers to make videos letting Disney know that the fanbase as a whole disapproved of the actions taken. After a day of people voicing their disapproval, the claim was taken down. StarWarsTheory asserted that it was due, in part, to fan outcry as well as Lucasfilm’s involvement. According to StarWarsTheory’s video, Lucasfilm stepped in to dispute the claim, saying that the whole situation was not part of the original agreement. Effectively, Lucasfilm was able to halt the hijacking of the film. Due to this support, the fan film “Vader: Shards of the Past” now stands at 8 million views and counting, and will continue to be ad-free for everyone. The only question in the mind of fans now is how Disney is capable of acting so unjustly with one of their biggest franchises. The events have even triggered conspiracy theories throughout the fanbase, including speculations from smaller YouTubers like StarWarsOnly, that the events were a ruse to generate some positive publicity for Lucasfilm. Some fans are now even calling for a boycott of the upcoming “Episode IX” due to its mistreatment of the fanbase. As for the fan film, all issues seem to be resolved at this time.