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Disney lawyers ruin the fun for some Star Wars fans’ MayThe4th celebration

The annual Star Wars celebration on May 4 got off to a sour start when Star Wars’ corporate parent shared its terms of use if fans tweeted MayThe4th in reply to Disney Plus.

Disney lawyers ruin the fun for some Star Wars fans’ MayThe4th celebration
[Photo: Craig Adderley/Pexels]

It’s almost May again, meaning it’s that time of year when Star Wars fans look forward to tweeting, “May the 4th be with you.”

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Get it?

The accompanying hashtag to celebrate May 4—#MayThe4th—is one that has been trending for as long as hashtags and trending topics existed, because Star Wars fans are unmatched in their enthusiasm.

It is the Star Wars Fan’s Cinco De Mayo, and it actually began trending on Monday, a week ahead of schedule.

That’s because Disney Plus, the new streaming home for all things Star Wars, got involved. They tweeted, “Celebrate the saga! Reply with your favorite #StarWars memory and you may see it somewhere special on #MayThe4th.”

But it was the follow-up tweet that drew the ire of Star Wars purists: “By sharing your message with us using #MayThe4th, you agree to our use of the message and your account name in all media and our terms are here: disneytermsofuse.com.” A third tweet then further sought to clarify Disney’s rights claim but didn’t exactly put out the fire:

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It’s no surprise that Disney has an entire site geared toward terms of use for all of its properties, such as Lucasfilm Ltd., Marvel, Pixar, ABC, ESPN, and Freeform.

However, the point of the first tweet was to get fans excited about The Rise of Skywalker—the final film in the saga—being available for streaming on May 4.

The terms of use tweet seemed to have no idea what the first tweet was trying to do, because it accomplished the opposite.

Twitter user @CoryJTurner dragged Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey into the fray with an angry mention that seems to sum up what a lot of annoyed fans are saying: “Hey @Twitter, @jack at what point do you step in and specifically say that hash tags [sic] don’t belong to anyone?”

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Then there were more jokes (and expressions of rage) from multiple users commenting on how Disney owns everything. There were fans who actually participated with fond Star Wars memories, but it seems like most people were annoyed. They wanted to enjoy their hashtag without corporate interference.

But does Disney actually have a legal claim to any variation of #MayTheFourth?

Yes. Obviously.

A basic trademark search of the USPTO database shows that there are a few registrations related to “May The Fourth,” and they were all filed by Lucasfilm Ltd. several years ago. One of the four has been registered as “May the 4th Be With You” and its purpose is to identify fan clubs and entertainment services. It was filed on May 4, 2011. “May the Fourth be With You” is being used to identify games, toys, action figures, costumes, and accessories. There’s also “May the Fourth be with You!” and another version of “May The Fourth Be With You” (with a different serial number from the first mention) geared toward clothes.

Fast Company reached out to Disney for comment, but we have not yet received a response.

Here is a sample of what some angry fans had to say:

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To be fair, not everyone was cynical about it:

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