Battle Over Model War Planes

model building defense contractors

What's happening down in this suburban Washington basement could be a threat to the Military Industrial Complex.

CBS News correspondent Rich Schlesinger reports that the threat warning comes from defense companies that build the real planes and say thousands of model lovers, such as 14-year-old Matt Jackson, are freeloading off their hard work.

Matt's working on an EA-6B Prowler – a Navy jet. Schlesinger asks Matt if he thinks he's ripping off the Navy in his basement.

"That's what I'm trying to do, yeah," says Matt.

The defense giants do hold trademarks on planes like the F-15, F-16 and the B-17, and they say if a model company uses their planes to build replicas, it should pay royalties.

John Long, who owns a model company, says the defense contractors don't deserve a penny, because these airplanes were developed with tax dollars.

"It could be as high as 10 percent of the product cost," Long says. "Now why should I pass additional costs on to the taxpayer for this product when he's already paid the price?"

It's a nasty little battle that has reached Capitol Hill, where the model companies are pushing a law to defend themselves from the defense industry. And even though the money involved is pocket change in the deep-pocketed mega corporations — they still want it.

"Cash is king," Long says.

The aerospace companies are very camera shy when it comes to this issue. But in a written statement, they say this is not about money, it's about protecting trademark rights.

"No, I don't believe them," Matt says. "I think it's mostly to do with the money."

There are thousands of model enthusiasts who have a stake in this war over warplanes. As the battle lines have been drawn between two of this nation's favorite pastimes — making models — and making money.