Yochai Benkler


In 1999, George Lucas released a bloated and much maligned “prequel” to the Star Wars Trilogy, called The Phantom Menace. In 2001, a disappointed Star Wars fan made a more tightly cut version, which almost eliminated a main sidekick called Jar-Jar Binks and subtly changed the protagonist—rendering Anakin Skywalker, who was destined to become Darth Vader, a much more somber child than the movie had originally presented. The edited version was named “The Phantom Edit.” Lucas was initially reported amused, but later clamped down on distribution. It was too late. The Phantom Edit had done something that would have been unimaginable a decade earlier. One creative individual took Hollywood’s finished product as raw material and extracted from within it his own film. Some, at least, thought it was a better film. Passed from one person to another, the film became a samizdat cultural object in its own right.

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