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A day after a devastated YouTuber explained how his Darth Vader fan film had been turned against him by an unexpected copyright claim, he said he would give up the fight so he could keep his channel safe.
YouTube star Star Wars Theory—who has added more than 35,000 subscribers in the past two days to his total of nearly 1.5 million—recently uploaded his film, VADER EPISODE 1: SHARDS OF THE PAST, after he came to an agreement with Lucasfilm that nobody would make any money off it. But as he detailed Monday, Star Wars Theory said the video had been copyright claimed by the Warner Chappell music company and Disney, meaning that revenue earned from the video would automatically go to them.
Star Wars Theory told the Daily Dot that Warner Chappell told him that if he filed an appeal on the copyright claim, it would further punish his channel and then delete the video. So, Star Wars Theory is letting Warner Chappell take the money that nobody was originally supposed to have.
“This was never about the money,” Star Wars Theory said in his new video, posted Tuesday. “If they want to take the money, if they feel entitled to it, no problem.”
The reason the fan film, which has more than 6.8 million views, was claimed by Warner Chappell was that it said it owns the rights to the music composition and publishing for the entire Star Wars franchise, including any covers or renditions. Even though Star Wars Theory hired his own composer to produce new music for the fan film, Warner Chappell claimed it as part of its copyright.
The YouTuber told Newsweek that he spent $150,000 of his own money on his production, and he said in a previous video that the fan film, up to that point, would have earned him $80,000 if he’d been allowed to monetize it.
The reason he couldn’t monetize it was because he had asked Lucasfilm before he began the project if he could either crowdfund the costs or if he could make money off the ad revenue. Lucasfilm said no to both requests but allowed him to make the film. Now that Warner Chappell has barged in after the fact to take the money has upset Star Wars Theory. But he also doesn’t feel he can afford to keep going forward with the dispute.
“I’m just a little baby Star Wars channel,” he said. “If I file an appeal, they’re going to win, they’re going to strike my channel—which means my whole channel can be swiped off YouTube—and they’re going to delete the video … They’ve turned on monetization, and they’ve taken it for themselves. They’re not even giving it to Lucasfilm … You guys take the money. Go ahead. I don’t care. Do what you want with it.
“It was never about the money for me. It’s something I made for the fans … This is to uphold the legacy George Lucas made and to have fun and to just make something cool. That’s all it was, and that’s all it’ll ever be.”
Neither Disney nor Warner Chappell responded Tuesday to a Daily Dot request for comment, but Star Wars Theory asked them to leave his channel alone because “I’m just a simple man just trying to make my way in the universe.”
Despite the controversy, Star Wars Theory said he still plans on making a second episode of the fan film.
“It’s going to be tough because I don’t want them to do this again,” he said. “I probably won’t be using any Star Wars themes or anything like that for episode 2. Which kind of sucks. But that’s what we’re dealing with here. It’s going to be tough, but we’re going to make it happen and we’re going to do it.”
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.