In a move which might cause huge ripples in the fan film community, CBS and Paramount have filed suit in a California Federal Court against the producers of the crowd-funded fan project Axanar. The suit alleges that Axanar violates the Star Trek Intellectual Property of CBS and Paramount. The real question fans want answered about this whole thing is: Why go after Axanar after allowing all those other fan films and web-series the latitude to create their Star Trek visions over the years? Lets try to figure it out.
Let’s start out with a few facts that might have CBS and Paramount concerned. Axanar has used two crowd funding campaigns on Kickstarter and Indiegogo to raise over $1 million dollars, a staggering sum of money for any fan film production. The cast is made up of well-known Star Trek actors as well as other sci-fi fan favorites like Richard Hatch. Behind the camera there are a number of professionals working on the project, many of whom have worked on Paramount and CBS Star Trek productions. All this adds up to an incredible amount of talent and money which, as you can clearly see in the resulting 21 minute Prelude to Axanar short. It easily matches, or exceeds in my humble opinion, anything CBS or Paramount has produced since Star Trek The Next Generation returned Star Trek to television.
Why does this bother CBS and Paramount so much? Well, CBS is currently trying to get a new television show started to air on their new streaming service CBS All Access set to begin in 2017. Having the only quality Star Trek production available on television would be one of their goals. Paramount of course has Star Trek Beyond in the movie pipeline and would rather any Star Trek use the new corrected timeline instead of any old school Trek.
Here’s the core of the complaint filed:
The Axanar Works infringe Plaintiffs’ works by using innumerable copyrighted elements of Star Trek, including its settings, characters, species, and themes.
Now let’s look at what Axanar response has to say about this lawsuit:
Well, there’s certainly going to be some kind of fight, if not in court then in the court of public opinion. CBS and Paramount may have a case in Federal Court, but fans are going to let them have it on the Internet. Axanar is not without some interesting counter arguments though. They are following what CBS and Paramount have allowed fan films to do for the past 20 plus years, in fact in the Pitch video below, Axanar producers explicitly lay out what those perceived rules are. That is a strong argument for the producers of Axanar.
So we have both sides with interesting, compelling arguments to support their sides. Will it come down to a judge’s ruling? Perhaps, but perhaps not. There are sure to be some meetings between the two either as court ordered fact-finding interviews or behind the scenes negotiating to bring this to an equitable arrangement.
This could just be the first shot across the bow of Fan films though. Star Trek Continues is another fan film series that has a high standard of production and acting. Could that production be receiving a Cease and Desist lawsuit as well?
In the end, no matter how this turns out, CBS and Paramount, while well within their rights to protect their Intellectual Rights, are going to dig a deep hole in their fan relations. The timing of the suit isn’t an accident, Axanar was scheduled to begin filming January, and a target release date to hit the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek. Now that might not happen depending on the courts possible early rulings on production continuing when the case gets to court.
What do you think about the whole thing?
The Axanar Pitch Video:
Prelude to Axanar: