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Lucas's lawyer says no proof of plagiarism

By VERENA FORDE

CALGARY, Alberta -- A screenwriter who launched a $128 million plagiarism suit against 'Star Wars' creator George Lucas hasn't proved the disputed ideas are his or that Lucas stole them, Lucas's lawyer told court Friday.

Lucas's lawyer, Graham Dutton, said during final arguments that Dean Preston's co-author David Hurry should have launched the suit because the ideas in the 'Space Pets' script Lucas allegedly stole from are really his.

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Dutton also said the 'Space Pets' characters called Ewoks, resembling the Ewoks characters in Lucas's 1983 film 'Return of the Jedi,' were not sufficiently defined to allow copyright to exist, and that Preston did not prove Lucas stole the ideas.

Dutton said Lucas's inspiration for the Ewoks came instead from a pool of folklore and mythology common to all people and was the product of a creative process.

Preston, a Calgary-based writer-producer, is suing Lucas in Canadian federal court alleging 'Return of the Jedi' features characters called Ewoks -- bear-like, child-sized tree dwellers -- that he claims he created in the 1978 screenplay 'Space Pets' and sent to Lucas.

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The suit against Lucas, Lucas Films Ltd. and 20th Century Fox Canada Ltd. seeks general and punitive damages, alleging copyright infringement and breach of implied contract.

Evidence and final submissions ended Friday with Judge Andrew MacKay saying he would take some time to consider his verdict. Lawyers for both sides said they expect MacKay to take about two months.

As the hearing wound up, Preston said, 'I feel like I've been drawn through a hedge backwards.'

Lucas testified last week that his Ewoks and Preston's creatures are similar 'only in a gross sense -- they have fur, and they walk on two feet' and both are 'an alien race that's primitive and lives in the forest.'

Lucas said his company has adopted strict policies forbidding him to open mail and instructing the staff to return unsolicited manuscripts to prevent such lawsuits.

Academics from area universities who testified in the case disagreed over the script's similarities.

In his closing summation Thursday, Preston's lawyer Webster MacDonald, Sr. accused Lucas and his attorneys of being cavalier and using a 'mishmash' defense that had not showed Lucas's innocence.

'The defendants have treated this case with cavalier disdain,' MacDonald said. 'This case has gone on since 1985 and the defendants should've come before court with convincing arguments instead of mishmash.'

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MacDonald argued that Preston had proved in court that he wrote a literary work and established copyright to it, only to have someone take unfair advantage of access to the work.

'It's the theory of the plaintiff that a script that arrived in Hollywood fell into somebody's hands, was turned over to George Lucas and he used it,' MacDonald said.

Lucas said he devised the 'Star Wars' space adventure concept in the early 1970s and that the first mention of an Ewok is in a 1981 handwritten draft of 'Return of the Jedi,' where the Ewok is described as a 3-foot-tall, stubby ball of fuzz with large yellow eyes and a tail.

MacDonald said Lucas demonstrated a lack of credibility by telling the court initially that he came up with the name for 'Star Wars' characters called Wookies, only to admit under cross-examination that it was someone else's idea.

Dutton countered that the change in his client's testimony only demonstrated his honesty.

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