The Real Reason It's Illegal To Watch The Fan-Favorite Version Of Star Wars

There's a particular section of Star Wars fandom that's had a bumpy couple of decades. In the 2010s they were bummed by the sequels, first for being too same-y and then for not being same-y enough, then finally for just being kind of a mess. In the 2000s, they experienced the jarring realization that most of Darth Vader's intrigue and mystique came down to "likes girl, dislikes sand" and a deep sense of spiritual loss when Watto didn't even show up for Episode III.

But hey, just because something changes doesn't mean you can't revisit the memories of what it used to be, right? Wrong. George Lucas, giver and taker of good things, robbed the nerds of that too. Fans will recall that in the 1990s, Lucas unloaded a pile of duckets re-editing the original trilogy. He put away childish things like Oscar-winning special effects in favor of universally admired additions like that Honeycomb Cereal monster singing in Jabba's palace. Want to watch the version you remember from when you were a kid? You'd better hope your folks still have their VHS copies collecting dust somewhere convenient, because any other option for viewing the older cuts of Star Wars could land you in the hoosegow, you rebel scum.

Watto you gonna do?

Fans of Star Wars have been trying to undo Lucas' litany of changes to the first three movies for decades. Some have even succeeded — Vice reports that one fan, Petr Harmáček, spent five years and thousands of hours piecing the trilogy back together into a "despecialized edition." There's just one hiccup: it's totally illegal. Copyright law is tricky that way.

Harmáček points out in the guide to his work that viewing the despecialized cut is technically illegal if you can't prove that you already own the source material. He's quick to point out that Disney hasn't mobilized the IP stormtroopers yet, saying "so far the powers that be have been quietly tolerating our little community efforts because we don't really represent any sort of threat to their revenue."

Enthusiastic fan cuts of the Star Wars franchise are sort of a time honored tradition at this point. The first major case came in the form of 2000's Phantom Edit, a reworking of Episode I created to tone down the Jar Jar shenanigans, among other things. As of yet, fans have yet to create a Watto-only cut of any of the films. But we still have hope.