Star Wars: The Force Awakens doesn’t open until next weekend, on December 18, but Fortune reports that Walmart has leaked one of the action figures this week. Yes, a lawsuit will follow.
A Walmart in Council Bluffs, Iowa, placed an action figure of Star Wars character Rey on their shelves with a $7 price tag. Rey is a scavenger who traded on the world of Jakku 30 years after the Battle of Endor. The action figure that Walmart put up for sale shows her wearing her resistance outfit. Justin Kozisek, who hosts a podcast called Star Wars Action News, purchased the toy and posted a photo to Facebook, sparking the ensuing public battle.
Kozisek and his wife Marjorie Carvalho host the podcast that is dedicated to Star Wars collectibles. Marjorie states that shortly after the photo, which was taken by their staff member Justin, of the Star Wars figure was released, her husband received a text message asking if they were being sued. She tells Ars Technica that when they realized how quickly the photo was spreading, her husband quickly posted to Facebook that the photo was not to be shared any more. His post read the following.
“Those photos have gone viral—they’re out there. But they aren’t here. And we will not be posting them again as we consider Hasbro a valuable partner in our coverage of Star Wars toys.”
Star Wars Action News was notified by Facebook that they were in violation of Disney’s copyright and they were demanded by Lucasfilm, Disney, and another companies to pull all images. With their demand they included a copy of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.
Hasbro makes the Rey figure that is the source of the furor. They created and sell other Rey action figures that are available for sale as well. The commotion over this Rey figure is happening because it has not officially been released and has not yet been mentioned in their product announcements. Some Star Wars fans feel the figure that shows Rey in her resistance outfit contains a spoiler. It’s the same outfit shown in a TV spot recently released by Disney.
Jeremy Conrad runs a fan website called Star Wars Unity and was angered over the backlash over Kozisek’s photo. He also received a DMCA notice from Lucasfilm after sharing Kozisek’s photos on Twitter. The notice referred to the photos as “a screen shot of an unreleased figurine for Star Wars: Force Awakens.” Conrad responded to this on his website with “It’s not unreleased if you can walk into Walmart and buy the damn toy!”
Attorneys say they understand Disney’s interest in removing photos of the Star Wars figure from the internet. This is in their best interest. They say that while there is a copyright attached to the figure, a fan taking a photo of it as it sat on a shelf in a retail store and then posting it to his fan blog “has an extremely strong claim to fair use.”
Kozisek’s photo was restored by Thursday, but the entire post had been removed by Friday morning and Kozisek was banned from Facebook for three days. In the 10 years that Star Wars Action News has existed, this is their first run in with any kind of legal issue. Neither Disney nor Hasbro has commented and Walmart has not commented on why the toy was put on shelves.
[Photo courtesy of Andrew Burton/Getty Images]