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Find Star Wars in Copyright

If you’ve ever watched The Big Bang Theory, you know that the guys are obsessed with Star Wars. In one episode, Leonard suggests a Star Wars marathon weekend to Sheldon, who replies with “Movies or video games? Or board games? Or trading card games? Or Legos? Or dress up? Or comic books? Or dramatic readings of novelizations? Yes to all!” They settle on the online game. The scene just scratches the surface of all the Star Wars derivative works, many of which I owned “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .” (or, more accurately, forty-some years ago in Pittsburgh).

Mobile device shows search results for "star wars" in the Copyright Public Records System.

Searching “Star Wars” in the Copyright Public Records System found more than 8,400 results.

So, just how many hits do you think searching “Star Wars” gets in the Copyright Public Records System? On this Star Wars Day, I got more than 8,400. Now, not all of them are related to the first Star Wars movie, registered by Twentieth Century-Fox in 1977—for example, some are about the star wars defense system from the 1980s. But most are on topic, and several can be seen in the Find Yourself in Copyright exhibit.

How do I find myself in Star Wars? I’m an old-school fan—the original trilogy was a huge part of my childhood. I know I’m not alone, given that all three original movies have been added to the National Film Registry. I remember seeing the films in the theater, and I remember how big of a deal it was when Star Wars was on TV for the first time. But even greater are my memories of the creative works that came from the movies.

Sheet music showing the theme for "Star Wars."

Deposit copy for “Star Wars” sheet music registration.

The music immediately takes me back. John Williams composed and conducted the iconic soundtracks for Star Wars episodes I–IX. His creativity inspired many recordings and arrangements, including the number one hit “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” space disco recording by Meco in 1977. Many of the songs on the soundtracks don’t have lyrics, but “Ewok Celebration” at the end of Return of the Jedi does. John Williams composed and conducted the music, and Bantha Music registered the work with original English lyrics by Joseph Williams and Ewokese lyrics by Ben Burtt.

Long before the days of on-demand movies, my brother and I had The Story of Star Wars album—a condensed audio soundtrack of the movie. We listened to it so much that I still, when watching the movie now, can remember the exact point in the dialogue where we had to flip the record. We also had Star Wars bedsheets, lunch boxes, t-shirts, sticker books, and the seemingly impossible to defeat Empire Strikes Back Atari game. Since then, approximately 100 Star Wars video games have been released, with far more realistic graphics than my 1982 game.

Card catalog registration card for Star Wars. Text says it's for an "Illustration of a TIE fighter in the background chasing an X-WING fighter together with the words Star Wars.

One of many Star Wars registration cards.

But where I really find myself in Star Wars is remembering the countless hours playing with the action figures and spaceships. For years, every birthday party and holiday meant new Star Wars toys. Our Death Star toy was my favorite, with the retractable bridge, rope for Luke and Leia to swing from, and the best part, the trash compactor—complete with foam “trash,” the trash monster, and the closing-in walls. We also had multiple X-Wing Fighters, TIE Fighters, and Lightsabers; Luke’s Landspeeder; the Millennium Falcon; the Droid Factory; and every action figure imaginable.

As we celebrate May the fourth this and every year, I hope you too find yourself in Star Wars. Because, as Obi-Wan Kenobi said, “The Force will be with you, always.”

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