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I'm currently working on an essay for an award. I'm on a FIRST Robotics Team, and FIRST gives a Chairman's Award at our competitions. One part of this award includes an essay.

Our team's name relates to Star Wars, and we'd like to bring this theme into our essay. Are we allowed to include things like "Jedi Masters" and certain memorable quotes without facing copyright infringement if I gain no monetary value directly from the essay?

Thank you!

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Most importantly: I am not a lawyer. Get professional legal advice.

The key is whether or not your use of the copyrighted material constitutes "fair use." Fair use can be difficult to determine. Whether you make money is one factor, but there are others. The amount of material you use, for example. You can't copy "a substantial" amount of another work, even if you give it away. Another key factor is whether your use reduces the monetary value of the original work.

This is a tricky subject.

Check out The Copyright Handbook from NOLO Press. Read the section about fair use. And consult an intellectual property attorney.

Note that the use of names may relate more to trademarks rather than copyright. So check out trademark law while you're at it.

EDITED: My original first paragraph was incorrect. My new first paragraph is the most important one.

  • Okay, thank you! I've checked it out a little bit more and I think that our team has agreed that this does not fall under the fair use policy. Unfortunately, we don't have to resources to get professional legal advice, nor the motivation, to be honest. – M Lizz Jan 11 '16 at 3:24

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