* See Our 2016 Tour Dates *
Yesterday, I learned that my friend Flynn is being sued by Lucasfilm for the names of two of his projects: New York Jedi and Lightsaber Academy. I am deeply saddened for him, because having worked with him closely on our December battle in San Francisco, I know that his heart is in the right place and he is the truest Star Wars fan there is. I also know that this would not have happened if George Lucas were still at the helm. Some people dismiss this "Lucas theory" as baseless conjecture, but let me tell you why we don't use the word "lightsaber" anymore.
Above: a tweet from 2011 about our event Lightsaber Battle NYC in Washington Square Park on the official Star Wars twitter account. Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012.
Newmindspace began in Toronto, Canada in 2005, putting on free, fun events like massive pillow fights and urban games like Capture the Flag. In 2007, we started throwing events called "lightsaber battles." The first one was an unmitigated disaster: we made our "lightsabers" out of cardboard tubes that were spray painted with neon colors and lit up externally with blacklight cannons. We made 1,600 to hand out for free — 4,000 people showed up.
From that moment on, we realized two things: 1) they need to be plastic! And 2) we needed to let people get their weapons, guaranteed. That's how we began the "lightsaber" reservation system.
For years, the events grew. 2,000 people would regularly show up at our events, making it, without a doubt, a really cool thing for casual fans (or even non-fans) to come out to a Star Wars-themed event, when previously it might be viewed as "for only hardcore fans only." We put on events in New York City and Toronto for many years with no complaints from Lucasfilm; hell, they even wrote a post about us on the StarWars.com blog! The blog post was deleted after Disney acquired Lucasfilm.
The trouble really began last December. With the help of many friends of ours, including Flynn and Lightsaber Academy, we organized events in four cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Seattle. New York and Provo also had their own. Flynn had a cool idea in that we should try to go for a world record, and we did it: RecordSetter.com recorded 9,951 people fighting with "lightsabers" over a 24 hour period.
In January of this year, we received a cease-and-desist from Lucasfilm, ordering us to stop using the word "lightsaber" and any Star Wars marks. We immediately changed our event name to "Light Battle" and called our swords "Light Swords." This was not good enough for Lucasfilm! The way I interpreted what they were saying was basically, "Look, we caught you red-handed for the infringement in December, and we will sue you for that unless you go even further and stop using the word 'light' as well." And so we complied once more, changing our events to "Glow Battle" and calling our items "Glow Swords."
The three-month settlement process was brutal. I suffered many sleepless nights, crippling anxiety, and just a sense of existential dread that this thing I'd been building for 10 years was about to come to an end. Fortunately, after 3 months of negotiations, we were able to get a pretty decent result. This year we have already organized battles in San Jose, Sacramento, Grand Rapids, Salt Lake City, Boston, New York and Toronto.
And I am pleased to say we have battles coming up in San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Diego this December.
I do not pretend to know what will happen to Lightsaber Academy or Flynn, but if there is an opportunity to donate to his legal defense, I recommend that every true fan who misses George Lucas's lighthearted approach to his fandom do what they can to help out. In this case I think it's pretty obvious... this wouldn't have happened when George Lucas was in charge.
See the 2016 Tour Dates.