If you’ve got a Star Trek fan film in the works, you better hope it’s short, sweet and cheap because Paramount and CBS are going to be coming for you otherwise. With the hired goons presumably on standby, the company that owns the rights to Star Trek yesterday announced brand new rules and regulations that are supposed to govern the production fan films made in the franchise’s honor. In the wake of Paramount’s litigious attempts to shut down one project in particular, it seems that the promise of the lawsuit’s imminent end has turned into a pledge to make sure that it never happens again.
You may have been following along with the development of Star Trek: Axanar, and Paramount’s attempts to shut it down for copyright infringement. Fans were incensed, and it was just a couple of weeks ago that J.J. Abrams and Justin Lin, the producer and director respectively of the upcoming Star Trek Beyond, announced at a fan event that the lawsuit against Axanar would soon come to an end. But is this what they meant?
“The heart of these fan films has always been about expressing one’s love and passion for Star Trek. They have been about fan creativity and sharing unique stories with other fans to show admiration for the TV shows and movies,” reads the official statement. “These films are a labor of love for any fan with desire, imagination and a camera.
“We want to support this innovation and encourage celebrations of this beloved cultural phenomenon. It is with this perspective in mind that we are introducing a set of guidelines at Star Trek Fan Films.”
For Alec Peters, the executive producer of Star Trek: Axanar, these guidelines are not the gift of clarity to fans in terms of what’s allowed, but rather its an attempt by a corporate boss to control as aspect of fandom that typical enjoys wide open discretion. “These guidelines appear to have been tailor-made to shut down all of the major fan productions and stifle fandom,” Peters told The Wrap. “In no way can that be seen as supportive or encouraging, which is very disheartening.
“While CBS and Paramount claim to want to encourage the passion of fans to produce ‘reasonable fan fiction,’ the restrictions presented do just the opposite,” Peters continued, “willfully ignoring over 40 years of fan works that helped buoy the ‘Star Trek’ franchise through some very lean years and enthusiastically spread the magic of the franchise in more plentiful times.”
Discussion about Paramount’s lawsuit against Axanar has been around the substantial budget that the producers have crowd-funded to make it, as well as the involvement of high-end visual effects makers and professional actors, some of whom have Star Trek experience, in the project. Basically, Axanar was too big to be called a fan film, at least from Paramount’s point of view. When Abrams and Lin announced that the lawsuit would be dropped, it seemed that the studio might have seen the light from the bad optics of their legal maneuvering, but take a look at these guidelines below, and tell us that this is no the direct result of Axanar.
1) The fan production must be less than 15 minutes for a single self-contained story, or no more than 2 segments, episodes or parts, not to exceed 30 minutes total, with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.
2) The title of the fan production or any parts cannot include the name “Star Trek.” However, the title must contain a subtitle with the phrase: “A STAR TREK FAN PRODUCTION” in plain typeface. The fan production cannot use the term “official” in either its title or subtitle or in any marketing, promotions or social media for the fan production.
3) The content in the fan production must be original, not reproductions, recreations or clips from any Star Trek production. If non-Star Trek third party content is used, all necessary permissions for any third party content should be obtained in writing.
4) If the fan production uses commercially-available Star Trek uniforms, accessories, toys and props, these items must be official merchandise and not bootleg items or imitations of such commercially available products.
5) The fan production must be a real “fan” production, i.e., creators, actors and all other participants must be amateurs, cannot be compensated for their services, and cannot be currently or previously employed on any Star Trek series, films, production of DVDs or with any of CBS or Paramount Pictures’ licensees.
6) The fan production must be non-commercial:
a) CBS and Paramount Pictures do not object to limited fundraising for the creation of a fan production, whether 1 or 2 segments and consistent with these guidelines, so long as the total amount does not exceed $50,000, including all platform fees, and when the $50,000 goal is reached, all fundraising must cease.
b) The fan production must only be exhibited or distributed on a no-charge basis and/or shared via streaming services without generating revenue.
c) The fan production cannot be distributed in a physical format such as DVD or Blu-ray.
d) The fan production cannot be used to derive advertising revenue including, but not limited to, through for example, the use of pre or post-roll advertising, click-through advertising banners, that is associated with the fan production.
e) No unlicensed Star Trek-related or fan production-related merchandise or services can be offered for sale or given away as premiums, perks or rewards or in connection with the fan production fundraising.
7) The fan production cannot derive revenue by selling or licensing fan-created production sets, props or The fan production must be family friendly and suitable for public presentation. Videos must not include profanity, nudity, obscenity, pornography, depictions of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or any harmful or illegal activity, or any material that is offensive, fraudulent, defamatory, libelous, disparaging, sexually explicit, threatening, hateful, or any other inappropriate content. The content of the fan production cannot violate any individual’s right of privacy.
8) The fan production must display the following disclaimer in the on-screen credits of the fan productions and on any marketing material including the fan production website or page hosting the fan production:
“Star Trek and all related marks, logos and characters are solely owned by CBS Studios Inc. This fan production is not endorsed by, sponsored by, nor affiliated with CBS, Paramount Pictures, or any other Star Trek franchise, and is a non-commercial fan-made film intended for recreational use. No commercial exhibition or distribution is permitted. No alleged independent rights will be asserted against CBS or Paramount Pictures.”
9) Creators of fan productions must not seek to register their works, nor any elements of the works, under copyright or trademark law.
10) Fan productions cannot create or imply any association or endorsement by CBS or Paramount Pictures.
Star Trek Beyond is in theaters everywhere on July 22.